Findings in a recent study by the American Epilepsy Society (AES) suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) is effective for reducing the frequency of seizures. CBD is a natural, non-psychoactive compound extracted from plants like hemp. The epilepsy and scientific society funded and led the study, which investigated the anticonvulsant efficacy of purified, plant-derived CBD for children and young adults with treatment-resistant epilepsies like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Affecting about 2.2 million to 3 million people in the U.S., epilepsy is a group of chronic neurological disorders characterized by recurrent seizures. About a third of all epilepsy cases are considered refractory or treatment resistant, which means that seizures are not controlled with medications. Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome are two severe types of epilepsy that are typically difficult to treat.
This new study suggests that CBD may be beneficial for managing those treatment resistant epilepsy cases. In it, participants were given daily CBD treatments for 12 weeks. The daily dosages gradually increased throughout the 12-week period, from 2-5 mg/kg to a maximum dose of 25 mg/kg.
The researchers, led by Dr. Orrin Devinsky and Dr. Elizabeth A. Thiele, found CBD to effectively reduce both the frequency and severity of seizures. After the 12 weeks of treatments, CBD reduced seizures by an average of 45.1 percent. Nearly half of all participants observed a seizure reduction of at least 50 percent. Nine percent of all subjects, and 13 percent of those diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, experienced complete seizure freedom with CBD treatments.
“These results from an uncontrolled study support the animal studies and prior reports showing that CBD may be a promising treatment for [treatment-resistant epilepsies] and it is generally well-tolerated in doses up to 25 mg/kg/day,” the researchers concluded in the study.
Of the 313 participants that started the study, 261 made it through the three months of treatment. The participants were seen at regular intervals of 2-4 weeks and their hematologic, liver, kidney function, and AED levels were regularly tested. Less than 10 percent experienced adverse events, and 36 patients withdrew from the study due to a lack of efficacy. The not-serious side effects observed included drowsiness, diarrhea, fatigue, convulsions, and decreased appetite. While 106 patients reported Serious Adverse Events (SAEs) during the 12 weeks, just 16 were considered related to CBD treatments.
The findings suggest that CBD may be particularly beneficial for those diagnosed with epilepsies that have proven resistant to traditionally used antiepileptic drugs. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, making it a less controversial treatment method for children and young people. A recent study found CBD to have a favorable safety profile.
“For many children with treatment-resistant Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and other epilepsies, CBD appears to be an effective – sometimes extremely effective – treatment that is safe and well-tolerated overall,” said researcher Dr. Thiele, in a press release.
Learn more about cannabidiol (CBD) and what research has so far discovered about its efficacy for epilepsy by visiting our education page.
You may also be interested in these related articles:
- CBD Demonstrates Efficacy for Reducing Seizures in Children in First Clinical Trial
- How Does CBD Reduce Seizures? Here’s What Science Says
- CBD Reduces Seizures in 84% of Children with Epilepsy, Study Finds