Epilepsy & Medical Marijuana

Epilepsy is one of Pennsylvania’s qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Though using medical marijuana for epilepsy treatment may be unfamiliar to some, it has been studied for years and a reliable source of treatment for some patients. Even on the pharmaceutical level, there is an FDA approved epilepsy medication (Epidiolex) that is a true, plant-based CBD formulation (as opposed to synthetic cannabinoids). All things considered, it is worthwhile to look into the potential that medical marijuana has in treating epilepsy.

What is Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal. The main symptom or result of this abnormal brain activity is recurring seizures. Seizures are a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain, and the signs and symptoms can vary and range in their severity, with some being very mild while others are quite severe. Some common symptoms include staring spells, uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs, and a loss of consciousness and awareness.

There is no singular specific cause of epilepsy, as it varies from patient to patient, with the cause sometimes being unknown. Similarly, epilepsy isn’t a singular disease, as it functions on a spectrum with many different symptoms and patterns, the unifying one being seizures. Also, epilepsy can sometimes be an accompanying condition to an existing disorder, such as autism. Though epilepsy is fairly common, because of the variety of seizure occurrence and severity amongst patients, as well as the different kinds of seizures different patients have, the best course of action and treatment will also vary between patients. However, between 30%-40% of people with epilepsy have not responded to traditional pharmaceutical medication regimens, and many experience extreme adverse effects on them. Though obviously alternative forms of treatment should always be discussed with a doctor first, there is an apparent need for alternative treatment, and medical marijuana can be a possible option. 

How Can Medical Marijuana Help

An interesting thing to consider with medical marijuana and seizures is that the endocannabinoid system (specifically, the endocannabinoids synthesized normally within the central nervous system) has a role in decreasing the release of the excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Put simply, it has a role in preventing seizures. It is important though to look at what has demonstrated (through the research that’s available) to help with seizures when considering medical marijuana treatment.

CBD is an important cannabinoid to consider in medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy. It’s been shown to have more anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant properties than THC, and is less likely to cause adverse effects in treatment. With this in mind, patients with epilepsy may want to look for high CBD products or 1:1 products.

Linalool also is an important terpene to consider. Linalool has demonstrated anticonvulsant properties in epileptic patients, so finding strains and products with higher percentages of linalool (at least in the top three terpenes), may also potentially be helpful.

Another thing to consider is the ingestion method. Oral ingestion (capsules, ingestible oils) can be beneficial since medical marijuana treatments for epilepsy can require bigger dosing, which can be easily measured and administered through oral ingestion. Additionally, this option is sometimes preferable because the effects are longer-lasting (6-8 hours), and this method may be a more practical way to administer the medication to pediatric patients. 

Medical marijuana has the potential to play an important role in an individual’s seizure treatment. Take this quote from Tim, one of our amazing Keystone Shops technicians, as he says:

“Medical marijuana has become an important part of managing my epilepsy. I use cannabis to treat many symptoms of the condition, as well as help prevent seizures in the future. Now that PA patients can easily access medical marijuana, residents suffering from seizure disorders can medicate without fear of legal consequences. When combined with their doctor’s prescribed medical advice, MMJ patients like me can find some relief from their condition and can live seizure-free. I strongly encourage anyone suffering from a seizure disorder to get their medical marijuana card.”

Both medical marijuana and epilepsy are very complex, so the right treatment will come down to an individual level depending on the type of seizures a patient has, the frequency of seizures, the severity, as well as the same general factors that patients must consider when picking the right medication. The aforementioned examples of medical marijuana treatment are just the surface of medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy, as more clinical research is necessary and many patients may have found more success through different methods. For the time being, anecdotal evidence and support for medical marijuana treatment can be greatly appreciated, and if it sounds interesting, consider talking to your doctor about treating epilepsy with medical marijuana. 

Sources:

https://pn.bmj.com/content/18/6/465

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6235654/

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