A review study has established that supplementary treatment, Epidiolex, an oral form of cannabidiol, lowers the frequency of seizures in patients suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, independent of anti-seizure medication, clobazam. The conclusions imply that CBD has anti-epileptic properties. These findings contradict the belief of many scholars that CBD’s effects in the treatment of epilepsy are because of its potential to increase clobazam in the body. Further research may be required to determine to what extent clobazam enhances CBD’s antiepileptic effects. However, the epileptic properties of CBD cannot be ignored. Here is a look at how CBD can help epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a medical condition that causes recurring seizures. A seizure is an electrical surge in the brain that causes excited neuronal activity. There are many types of epilepsy and different kinds of seizures. Patients with epilepsy are given anti-epileptic drugs to relieve their symptoms. However, not all patients respond to these medications.
Up to 40% of patients who have epilepsy are resistant to the medication provided to relieve their symptoms. For these patients, anti-epileptic medication is not effective, or they experience significant side effects. This is one of the main reasons many people with epilepsy seek alternative treatments to manage their symptoms. One common option is cannabidiol. Cannabidiol interacts with a patient’s endocannabinoid system to bring relief to various symptoms.
Is CBD an Approved Treatment for Epilepsy?
In mid-2018, the FDA approved the first treatment containing CBD. The drug called Epidiolex has 99% pure CBD and was approved for the treatment of serious cases of epilepsy, particularly, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. These are conditions that develop during childhood. These conditions are characterized by severe seizures that often lead to poor or delayed development of a child’s motor skills and language. The seizures also affect a child’s intellectual aptitude and their ability to bond with others.
Before granting their approval, FDA conducted clinical trials with 516 patients who had the conditions. It was established that when taken alongside other medication, Epidiolex lowered the seizures and improved related symptoms like sleep. Currently, the FDA’s approval is limited to these two types of epileptic conditions.
Some researchers argue that CBD can also be used to relieve other variants of epilepsy. A study performed on 214 patients of ages 1-30 years proved that CBD could help decrease the frequency of seizures in different types of epileptic conditions. The researchers set out to determine the safety of the drug for those who had resistance to other forms of treatment. They also wanted to determine the dose that would work for these patients. After a 12-week treatment duration, it was established that the monthly frequency of the patients’ seizures had decreased significantly.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to promote relief. The endocannabinoid system or ECS maintains balance in the body by controlling the neurotransmitters. The ECS sends messages to the neurons to either increase or decrease activity. When the ECS is not working as it should, a person experiences seizure. CBD helps prevent seizures and promotes the normal function of the ECS.
CBD can be administered in various forms. Epidiolex is administered orally, but it can also be taken in the form of vape oils and tinctures. Vape oils are inhaled through a vape pen. Patients who opt for vape oils prefer this form of treatment because inhaling the oil has a soothing effect. On the other hand, tinctures are administered through a dropper under the tongue. Research has shown that CBD tinctures have the most consistent and highest blood absorption rates compared to other CBD forms.
Does CBD Have Any Side Effects?
CBD generally has no side effects. However, if you combine this treatment with other drugs, you might experience some side effects. Clinical trials with Epidiolex have found the most common side effect to be diarrhea, stomach upset, and fatigue. Serious side effects may include insomnia, low appetite, sedation, and liver injury.
Many patients are concerned about CBD’s potential to cause liver injury. Patients who are already on anti-epileptic drugs may damage their liver by taking CBD because these drugs are processed by the same enzymes that metabolize CBD. This was particularly observed in a study of patients who took valproic acid, an anti-seizure medication. The patients had a significant increase in their liver activity. Nevertheless, the researchers observed that Epidiolex has mild effects on the liver compared to valproic.
CBD has been popularized for the treatment of epilepsy and relieving the symptoms of many other conditions. Whether or not CBD is effective in treating epilepsy on its own is up to debate. The fact remains that cannabidiol has properties that have proven to relieve the seizures experienced by patients with epilepsy, particularly Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. More research may be required to determine its effects on other forms of epilepsy. Additional studies will also be needed to establish whether CBD can relieve epileptic symptoms regardless of clobazam use.