Seizures occur as a result of excessive and abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Nerve cells fire electrical pulses up to four times the normal rate during a seizure. Seizures may result in a loss of consciousness, muscle spasms and convulsions, or they may go relatively unnoticed. Seizures can be reoccurring or isolated. Seizures usually come on suddenly and vary in duration and severity. Multiple seizures are often diagnosed as a disorder such as epilepsy.
Seizures are classified into two general categories and many subtypes based on the pattern of the attack. Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain from the start of the attack—common subtypes being grand mal and petit mal. The second major seizure type is a partial, or focal, seizure and these being in a specific area of the brain and may be contained there or they may spread.
Seizures can impact people of all races, sexes and age, however, they are most common in young children and older adults. Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological condition – effecting approximately 65 million people worldwide. While there are medications that can be used to help control seizures, there is no cure for the cause of the seizures, so a long-term pharmaceutical protocol is usually the course of action. Common medications include Diazepam, Ativan and Klonopin. However, in recent years, especially with regard to certain forms of epilepsy that effect mostly children, cannabis has shown some incredible results.
The number of clinical studies that have been conducted on the use of cannabis oil in the treatment of different forms of epilepsy and other seizure disorders falls far short of the public’s demand and need for such research. That said, more anecdotal evidence and observational studies have become available in recent years than ever before.
Cannabinoid therapies are often successful in treating conditions that are otherwise resistant to pharmaceutical treatments because they react with the endocannabinoid receptors that line the human brain and body. Some cannabinoids fit receptors as perfectly as a key fits a lock.
Cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown to be the most effective cannabinoid for seizure relief and reduction because it works as an anti-convulsant. CBD also enhances to efficacy of several pharmaceutical medications prescribed for the treatment of seizures. Although it does not work for every person, many patients experience symptom relief almost immediately after using cannabidiol. CBD is non-psychoactive, so it is currently the preferred cannabinoid for children or any person who prefers to avoid the feeling of being “high” produced by the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.
CBDV has been shown to have similar results to CBD in minimizing the severity and duration of seizures. It also helps to reduce symptoms that result from certain pharmaceuticals, like nausea and vomiting. THCV adds to the seizure relieving efficacy of cannabis by working as an anti-convulsant.
One of the best-known case studies of epilepsy treatment utilizing cannabis is Charlotte Figi. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Examiner, and CNN made a documentary about the benefits of medicinal cannabis – during which people suffering from different disorders were able to tell their stories of successful medical cannabis treatments. After years of speaking out against medical cannabis, Dr. Gupta came forth and let the world know that he was changing his opinion and has since become one of the most prominent pro-medical cannabis authorities in the world. At three months old, Charlotte was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrom, also known as Sever Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy. This is a rare and catastrophic form of pediatric epilepsy. Charlotte was suffering from up to 60 severe seizures each day. Her quality of life was substantially limited due to the almost constant seizing that her mind and body were going through – she couldn’t talk, walk, communicate or interact with anyone.
Charlotte’s doctors had no other ideas and had started to remove pharmaceutical medicines from her treatment plan because there was nothing left they could do. Around this time, Charlotte’s parents had heard about the Stanley Brothers’ strain of low THC, high CBD cannabis and seen a story about a child with Dravet’s that had seen incredible results from taking medical cannabis. After coordinating with the Stanleys, Charlotte tried cannabis oil that was high in CBD – Charlotte immediately went from having 60 seizures per day to having 7 consecutive days without a seizure. Two years after trying CBD for the first time, Charlotte’s mother wrote, “Charlotte is clearheaded, focused, and has no attention deficit. She rides horses, skis, paints, dances, hikes. She even has friends for the first time. Her brain is healing. She is healthy. She is happy.”
Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?
Cannabidiol–antiepileptic drug comparisons and interactions in experimentally induced seizures in rats.
Perceived efficacy of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis extracts for treatment of pediatric epilepsy: A potential role for infantile spasms and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Parental reporting of response to oral cannabis extracts for treatment of refractory epilepsy.
Cannabidivarin (CBDV) suppresses pentylenetetrazole (PTZ)-induced increases in epilepsy-related gene expression.
Report of a parent survey of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy.