Approximately 50 million people worldwide live with epilepsy, a neurological condition that involves recurring seizures. This makes it one of the most common neurological diseases globally. This condition prevents or makes daily tasks difficult such as caring for children, preparing food, driving, or maintaining a job and career. In severe cases, the patient’s quality of life can become so low that he or she experiences clinical depression or anxiety in anticipation of the next seizure.
Epileptic seizures are caused by irregular electrical discharges, or misfiring, among brain cells. The misfiring results in convulsions of the body, loss of consciousness, and sometimes severely altered senses. Epilepsy itself may be caused by head injuries, hormonal imbalance, or viruses. But it is often stated that the cause of epilepsy is simply unknown.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CONVENTIONAL TREATMENTS
Traditionally, epilepsy patients have prescribed one or more anticonvulsants. These pharmaceutical drugs in this category include valproic acid, phenytoin, primidone, clonazepam, phenobarbital and ethosuximide. The problem with anticonvulsants is they are often relatively ineffective and come with a number of negative side effects. It is those two factors that have driven many patients to seek cannabis oil as a solution where normal pharmaceutical therapies have failed or provided too much suffering. These side effects can include headaches, nausea, loss of hair, liver failure, depression, double vision, weight gain, slurring of speech, irritability, sleep disturbances, sedations, impotence, and mood disturbances.
Nearly 30% of epileptic patients are resistant to traditional anticonvulsant drug treatments, making the use of alternative treatments such as CBD oil for seizures more relevant.
CANNABIS OIL FOR SEIZURES
Medical cannabis has anticonvulsant properties. The plant contains 85 different chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The most recognized one in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but most of the anticonvulsant properties come from a different chemical in the plant called cannabidiol (CBD).
So, how does CBD help epileptic seizures subside?
These properties work by working on different targets, which are calcium ion channels, glutamate receptor antagonists, sodium ion channels, and the GATA system and receptor agonists, in the brain. Anticonvulsants may affect the neurotransmitters responsible for sending messages or attach themselves to the neurones. This is done to alter the activity of the cell by switching how ions flow into and out of the neurones.
TREATING SEIZURES WITH CANNABIS IS GAINING MOMENTUM
Cannabis treatment for seizures is gaining support from a growing roster of medical practitioners who are urging its legal access, including the Epilepsy Foundation in the United States. There are certain states in the USA where this is legal for medical purposes, while Canada has proposed that cannabis will be legal as early as July 1, 2018.
In Indianapolis, Ind. specifically, a bill has passed the Senate that would allow the use of CPD oil to treat people with severe epilepsy. Should the bill pass, only those with treatment-resistant epilepsy would be allowed to use the substance.
There was a 2003 study that was conducted at the Virginia Commonwealth University that noted that the cannabinoids from cannabis provide benefits that aren’t typically found in conventional pharmaceutical treatments.
The lead researcher for the study had been studying the therapeutic effects of cannabis on epilepsy and other illnesses for more than a decade at the time of this study. His team was the first to prove that cannabinoids can decrease seizures via the activation of the brain’s CB1 receptors, which are found in the memory-related areas of the brain and within the nervous system.
Patients who are suffering from epilepsy may gain a significant benefit from the use of cannabis to prevent and decrease the incidence of seizures. Those who are opposed to or concerned with or the psychoactive effects of THC should experiment with CBD-only oils, but need to understand that they may not gain maximum efficacy from such a limited extract of the herb.