CBD for Seizures at a Glance
- What the claims are: CBD can reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures.
- What the studies show: Medical research indicates that CBD for seizures is both an effective and safe treatment. While more research is being done, current studies overwhelmingly indicate CBD’s efficacy in the treatment of seizures.
- What the facts say: CBD has been shown to be effective in the treatment of seizures. In fact, the FDA has already approved a CBD-based drug for the treatment of epilepsy.
Seizures are caused by electrical disturbances in the brain, or the “misfiring” of certain brain cells. A seizure may simply appear as a long staring spell in which the person becomes unaware of his or her surroundings, or it may cause a person to collapse and shake uncontrollably. Most seizures last between 30 seconds and two minutes. A seizure that lasts longer than five minutes is a medical emergency.
While seizures can be caused by a stroke, a head injury, an infection like meningitis, or another illness, the cause of many seizures is unknown. According to the Mayo Clinic, having more than one seizure or having recurring seizures means that you have epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes seizures.
Epilepsy, or recurrent seizures, can be an extremely debilitating disorder, sometimes causing people to be unable to work or go to school. While medical treatments for seizures have made great strides, thirty percent of people with chronic seizures still do not find relief from medications. For this reason, many people are wondering if using CBD for seizures is a viable option.
Cannabis has been used medicinally since about 400 A.D. However, research into CBD’s potential medical benefits has been limited due to Cannabis’ classification as an illicit drug. Fortunately, the recent political climate has lightened up a bit around cannabis, especially around the non-psychoactive hemp plant from which CBD is often extracted. More medical studies are now being done, and more evidence of its benefits is available. But what does this say about CBD for seizures?
Can CBD for Seizures Help?
While the jury is still out on whether CBD can actually treat many of the health issues it’s claimed to, CBD for seizures is one of the few areas where extensive medical research has been done. Both the research and anecdotal evidence support using CBD for seizures as an option for relief.
The well-known story of Charlotte Figi, a 6-year-old girl with Dravet syndrome (a severe form of drug-resistant epilepsy which carries a high mortality rate), is a perfect example of what using CBD for seizures may accomplish.
Before taking CBD oil, Charlotte experienced around 50 seizures per day. After trying every other avenue of treatment they could find, Charlotte’s parents tried using CBD oil. The CBD was effective, and Charlotte now only experiences two to three seizures per month. Since Charlotte’s success, a host of medical research has been done on CBD for seizures.
The FDA recently approved the first CBD-based drug as a treatment for epilepsy. The clinical trials for this drug showed strong evidence supporting its efficacy in treating Dravat syndrome, the same type of epilepsy experienced by Charlotte Figi. The drug is currently being sold and used by people suffering from seizures.
Some notable results come from a recent study comparing CBD with a placebo group. The study found that 71% of children and 89.5% of adults found Cannabis products to be helpful in treating their seizures. 43% of the patients had at least a 50% reduction in the frequency of seizures, 5% of patients becoming seizure free during the CBD for seizure treatment.
And, one-third of respondents noted that Cannabis products allowed them to reduce their use of AEDs. The choice to reduce AEDs is likely due to the unwanted and potentially severe side effects from these pharmaceuticals.
Another study showed that CBD is an effective treatment option for drug-resistant Dravet’s syndrome, with the added bonus of having both tolerable side effects and a favorable safety profile.
Another study notes that CBD-enriched cannabis extracts can significantly reduce the frequency of drug-resistant seizures by up to 50% per month in both children and adolescents.
The authors of yet another study stated, “Our results suggest that adding CBD-enriched cannabis extract to the treatment regimen of patients with refractory epilepsy may result in a significant reduction in seizure frequency.”
Side Effects of Using CBD for Seizures
Generally speaking, CBD is considered very safe. Its few side effects are uncommon and not severe, especially in comparison with side effects of other seizure medications.
The authors of one study noted, “the often described favorable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research… Here, the most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite/weight. In comparison with other drugs, used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.”
The world of CBD can be fraught with misinformation and unscientific medical claims. While many of these claims may in fact pan out to be true, the research is still underway and thus we have only anecdotes and the claims of marketers to rely on. This is not the case with CBD for seizures.
Research strongly indicates that CBD is an effective treatment for seizures. The FDA’s approval of an epilepsy drug made with CBD illustrates both its safety and efficacy.
That said, CBD isn’t a magical cure-all. It doesn’t work for everyone, and different types of seizures are affected to varying degrees. While it is an amazing new tool to combat the debilitating effects of seizures, it may not work for some people. That is to say, just because CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment does not mean it is effective for everybody.
Keeping that in mind, if you or a loved one are seeking relief from seizures, CBD may indeed be a viable option. If you are considering using CBD for seizures, it would be best to consult your doctor or a medical specialist about whether it’s the best choice for your particular situation. At the very least, it’s important to consult a pharmacist to ensure that CBD will not interact with any other medications that you’re currently taking.
- Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting
- An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies
- Cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy
- Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?
- The case for medical marijuana in epilepsy.
- Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome.
- Efficacy of CBD-enriched medical cannabis for treatment of refractory epilepsy in children and adolescents – An observational, longitudinal study.
- Epilepsy Fast Facts
- Epilepsy’s debilitating toll and therapeutic conundrum – Health & Science – International Herald Tribune
- Marijuana stops child’s severe seizures