What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that is thought to affect the lives of around 50 million people worldwide. A person with epilepsy will usually experience spontaneous – and unpredictable – seizures. For some people with epilepsy, the seizures are relatively mild “clonic” seizures, which cause periods of confusion, muscle spasms, and rapid eye movements. In more severe cases, epilepsy can cause serious “grand mal” seizures; in these seizures, the person with epilepsy will usually lose consciousness and experience whole-body convulsions.
The number of seizures a person with epilepsy experiences is entirely subjective. Some will experience multiple seizures per day, while others will only experience one or two per year. As a result, epilepsy is considered to be a spectrum disorder due to the significant variance in both severity and frequency of seizures individuals diagnosed with the condition will experience.
Whilst epilepsy is not a new condition, it has become a more commonly-discussed subject in the past 50 years thanks to the work of the Epilepsy Foundation.
How is epilepsy treated?
There are many conventional treatments available for people with epilepsy, ranging from daily medication regimens through to surgical procedures designed to remove lesions on the brain.
Unfortunately, success rates for treatment tend to vary significantly between individuals- for some, medication alone can control seizures, while others continue to experience seizures even after medication and surgical interventions.
Furthermore, some people with epilepsy find the side effects of conventional epilepsy treatment challenging, even if treatment is relatively successful.
Can CBD be used to treat epilepsy?
While CBD has demonstrated the ability to assist with the management of a number of different health conditions, its role in epilepsy treatment is perhaps the most note-worthy of all.
- An observational study on 15 patients with epilepsy has produced exciting results. The patients received CBD for varying lengths of time – one month to a full calendar year – and their observations were then recorded. During the study, 27% of patients reported no seizures at all, while 40% reported a decrease in the number of seizures.
- A full double-blind study on children with Dravet syndrome – a neurological disorder that can cause seizures, and can be challenging to treat – also showed promising results. In total, 120 children were provided with either a daily CBD oral solution or a placebo. In the group that received CBD, the number of convulsive seizures reduced from 12.4 to 5.9, while 5% of the CBD group experienced no seizures at all during the study.
- Two further studies have also helped to confirm the efficacy of CBD in the treatment of both Dravet syndrome and another form of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
These successful studies have been accepted by the medical community; for example, in the United Kingdom, CBD was recently approved for the treatment of epilepsy in children.
It is also important to note that the research into CBD’s potential as a treatment for epilepsy is at a relatively early stage, and more studies and research are ongoing at present. Given that many instances of epilepsy are notoriously resistant to treatment, and patient adherence to medication can be a cause for concern, the continued acceptance of CBD could be crucial for people with epilepsy in future.
Why are people attracted to CBD?
For some people, the attraction of CBD is based on the science. CBD’s ability to help with the management of health conditions – including, but not limited to, epilepsy – is relatively well-established, so people are more inclined to try CBD in an effort to manage their own conditions.
In particular, CBD is often adopted by those who have attempted to find remedies for their health conditions through conventional treatment methods – those who are experiencing so-called “refractory” conditions.
It is also worth noting the fact that CBD is a naturally-occurring compound – which is undeniably attractive to those who are tempted to try CBD for themselves.
Already with rat tests in 1973 and 1977, CBD proved to be an effective and relatively potent anticonvulsant in seizure tests. The British Epilepsy Foundation published a study in 2012, showing that CBD reduces the frequency of seizures and the severity of seizures in animal models.
The list goes on and on. Therefore, check it out in the scientific study section further down.
So, researchers did a small-scale clinical trial amongst 15 women who had epilepsy in 1980. Eight of them received CBD while the others got a placebo. Four of the eight CBD subjects remained almost seizure-free throughout the experiment. And three others demonstrated partial improvement. Consequently, cannabidiol was only ineffective in one patient.
In 2013, the Journal of Epilepsy and Behavior published a clinical study on CBD epilepsy treatment. Through a Facebook survey, 19 epileptic children and their parents were recruited for the trials. The results speak for themselves:
- Sixteen (84%) reported a reduction of seizure frequency.
- Of these, 2 (11%) reported complete seizure freedom.
- 8(42%) reported a greater than 80% reduction in seizure frequency.
- And 6 (32%) reported a 25%-60% seizure reduction.