Some of the most concrete research to date regarding cannabis treatments and epilepsy have been released in the past few months. One such study was conducted by the American Academy of Neurology, which focused on Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). The study showed as much as a 50 percent decrease in “drop” seizures when taking cannabidiol (CBD). Clinically known as atonic seizures, they are often very brief, lasting less than fifteen seconds, but can cause physical damage since the patient loses all muscle control and can become injured from falling. This type of seizure is a hallmark of LGS.
“Our study found that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control,”
said author Anup Patel, MD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
The 225 participants in the study all suffered from LGS and had an average of 85 atonic seizures in a month, and also tried an average of six other epilepsy medications without success. Each patient also took an average of three epilepsy medications while participating in the study.
The patients were put into three groups: one group took 20mg per kilogram of body weight. Another group took 10mg/kg and the final group was given a placebo.
In the first group, 42 percent of patients saw a reduction in atonic seizures. Of those patients, 40 percent said the number of seizures were at least cut in half. In the second group, 37 percent experienced a reduction in atonic seizures. 36 percent of those patients said their seizures were at least cut in half. For the placebo group, 17 percent of patients saw a reduction in their atonic seizures, with 15 percent of that group experiencing a fifty percent decrease or more.
“Our results suggest that cannabidiol may be effective for those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in treating drop seizures,” said Patel.
“This is important because this kind of epilepsy is incredibly difficult to treat. While there were more side effects for those taking cannabidiol, they were mostly well-tolerated. I believe that it may become an important new treatment option for these patients.”
Side effects were reported in the majority of all three of the groups, but typically were mild and consisted of drowsiness and a limited appetite. In the two groups who were taking CBD, patients were 2.6 times more likely to cite an improvement in their condition, compared to the placebo group.
This study contributes to the growing amount of evidence that CBD is effective in treating epilepsy, especially in children with epileptic disorders that do not respond to conventional treatment. One study examined Dravet Syndrome, another form of epilepsy that affects children. The research model was very similar to Patel’s study, and the results showed an average of 50 percent reduction in the number of seizures. There is currently no FDA-approved treatment for Dravet Syndrome, but there are cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals currently going through the approval process. GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epilodex has been submitted for FDA approval, but will require the DEA to reschedule CBD treatments before it can be prescribed by doctors. Recent DEA policy suggests they are not intending to do so.