Of the approximately 150,000 people currently diagnosed with epilepsy in the United States, about a third will be faced with a type of seizure disorder that is untreatable with traditional medications. Often times, patients with these refractory epilepsy disorders are left without a way to manage what can commonly be frequent and debilitating seizures. Findings in a new research review, however, indicate that a couple of major cannabinoids may provide children and young adults with refractory epilepsy some much-needed relief.
Renowned neurologist Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, has studied cannabinoid’s effects on epilepsy for years. In his latest research review, conducted with neurologist Dr. David Gloss and research coordinator Brooke O’Connell, he investigated all the previous case reports, small series, and surveys reporting on cannabinoids and epilepsy. Their study was published in the February issue of the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.
After examining the available research, their review concluded that there is evidence indicating that two major cannabinoids in particular — cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – offer antiepileptic effects. CBD in particular has shown to be potentially beneficial on children with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes, two extremely serious seizure disorders that are hard for physicians to manage.
While noting that the study did show evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids, Devinsky and his team of researchers did stress the need for more clinical trials on cannabinoids and epilepsy. Unlike the other types of research, clinical studies involve the use of a placebo — a “fake” treatment given to half of the subjects. Placebos are necessary for comparison purposes to determine whether a substance truly is effective for a particular condition. Unfortunately, legislative limitations make conducting clinical trials on cannabinoids extremely difficult and expensive. Scientists have to get special permits and must obtain their cannabinoid material from one specific source.
Still, the research that has been done so far is extremely promising. Just last month, CBD hemp oil was found effective at treating children with severe epilepsy in two separate studies. Renowned Mexican physician Dr. Saul Garza Morales found CBD hemp oil treatments to reduce seizures in 84% of children with epilepsy. Dr. Carlos Aguirre Velazquez found CBD hemp oil to cause an 81% reduction in convulsions in epileptic children.
Want to learn more about what research has so far shown about cannabinoids effects on epilepsy? Check out our page, “Epilepsy & Seizure Disorders: Cannabinoids and CBD Research Overview.”