Impact of Cannabis on the Health of
Patients with Epilepsy

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a group of neurological disorders characterized by epileptic seizures. These are episodes that can vary from brief and nearly undetectable periods to long periods of vigorous shaking. These episodes can result in physical injuries, including occasionally broken bones. In epilepsy, seizures tend to recur and, as a rule, have no immediate underlying cause. People with epilepsy may be treated differently in various areas of the world and experience varying degrees of social stigma due to their condition.

In most cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown. Epileptic seizures are the result of excessive and abnormal neuronal activity in the cortex of the brain. The diagnosis involves ruling out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms, such as fainting, and determining if another cause of seizures is present, such as alcohol withdrawal or electrolyte problems.

Epilepsy that occurs as a result of other issues may be preventable. Seizures are controllable with medication in about 70% of cases. 

Does cannabis help seizures?

Early evidence from laboratory studies, anecdotal reports, and small clinical studies over a number of years suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) could potentially help control seizures. 

Many people suffering from epilepsy say marijuana stops their seizures, but there is little scientific evidence. Research on CBD has been hard to do and taken time due to federal regulations and limited access to cannabidiol. There are also many financial and time constraints.

However, there have been a handful of studies conducted in the U.S. since 1970. Other studies, even some ongoing, have been done around the world.

The findings reveal that the most well-known active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is just one of a group of compounds which have medicinal effects. Another, known as cannabidiol (CBD), does not cause the “high” associated with marijuana. It is emerging as one of the plant’s leading medicinal compounds.

Based on these initial studies, there are many studies currently ongoing throughout the US and other countries that are trying to answer the question of whether a drug formulation of CBD can help control seizures.