medical testimonies database contains 36 testimonies from cannabis users with epilepsy
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there has been relatively little research done into the treatment of epilepsy
with cannabis-based medication. Most evidence comes from anecdotal reports and
studies on individual cases.
1949 Davis & Ramsey administered THC to 5 institutionalized children who were
not responding to the standard treatment (phenobarbital and phenoytin). One became
entirely free of seizures, one almost completely free of seizures, while the other
three did no worse than before.
In 1975 Consroe et al. described the case of young man whose standard treatment
(phenobarbital and phenytoin), didn't control his seizures. When he began to smoke
cannabis socially he had no seizures. However when he took only cannabis the seizures
returned. They concluded that 'marihuana may possess an anti-convulsant effect
in human epilepsy'.
controlled trials have investigated the anti-epilepsy potential of cannabidiol.
In each, cannabidiol was given in oral form to sufferers of generalised grand
mail or focal seizures.
et al (1980) reported a study on 16 grand mal patients who were not doing well
on conventional medication. They recieved their regular medication and either
200-300mg cannabidiol or a placebo. Of the patients who received the cannabis
product, 3 showed complete improvement, 2 partial, 2 minor, while 1 remained unchanged.
The only unwanted effect was mild sedation. Of the patients who received the placebo,
1 improved and 7 remained unchanged.
(1986) reported a less successful study in which 12 epileptic patients were given
200-300mg of cannabidiol per day, in addition to standard antiepileptic drugs.
There seemed to be no significant improvement in seizure frequency. This is a
finding that was replicated in a report by Trembly et al (1990). However, Trembly
performed an open trial with a single patient who was given 900-1200mg of cannabidiol
a day for 10 months. This trial showed a more positive result - seizure frequency
was markedly reduced in the patient.
must be stated that these trials are all over too small a population for any general
statements about efficacy to be made.
study by Ng (1990) involved a larger population of 308 epileptic patients who
had been admitted to hospital after their first seizure. They were compared to
a control population of 294 patients who had not had seizures, and it was found
that using cannabis seemed to reduce the likelihood of having a seizure. However
this study was criticised in an Institute of Medicine report (1999) which claimed
it was 'weak', as 'the study did not include measures of health status prior to
hospital admissions...and differences in their health status might have influenced
their drug use' rather than the other way round.
there is some weak anatomical evidence of a relationship between cannabinoids
and epilepsy. There is a dense concentration of CB1-type receptors in the hippocampus
and amygdala areas of the brain. These two regions of the brain are known to be
involved somehow in seizures.
FR. (1986) Anticonvulsant effect of cannabidiol. South African Medical Journal
P.F., Wood, G.C. & Buchsbaum, H. (1975) Anticonvulsant Nature of Marihuana
Smoking. J.American Medical Association 234 306-307
J.M., Carlini, E.A., Pereira, A.E. et al. (1980) Chronic Administration of Cannabidiol
to Healthy Volunteers and Epileptic Patients. Pharmacology 21 175-185
J P., & Ramsey, H.H. (1949) Antiepileptic Action of Marijuana-active Substances.
Federation Proceedings 8 284-285
of Medicine (1999) Marijuana and medicine: Assessing the science base.
National Academy Press
Institutes of Health (1997) Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana, Report
to the Director, Washington, D.C.
et al. (1990) Illicit drug use and the risk of new-onset seizures, American
Journal of Epidemiology 132: 47-57.
B. Sherman M. (1990) Double-blind clinical study of cannabidiol as a secondary
anticonvulsant. Marijuana '90 International Conference on Cannabis and Cannabinoids.
Kolympari, Crete, July 8-11, 1990.
a large collection of research materials, see our research
comment is from Eleanor Logan, Chair of the Youth Commission of the International
Bureau for Epilepsy, and a former fundraiser for Enlighten, Action for Epilepsy
anti-convulsant drug has its own suite of side effects and people with epilepsy
have to decide whether these are counterbalanced by seizure control. Not everyone
experiences the side effects, and it can take up to 2 years to find the right
drug and more importantly the right level of medication to give control.
the last 10 years there has been a great increase in the variety of drugs available
to treat epilepsy as well as the development of surgery. In addition, there has
been a great increase in research into alternative methods of treating epilepsy,
including a self control method and aromatherapy. I don't know anything about
treatment of epilepsy with cannabis.'
is a large site with lots of general information about epilepsy. Some sections
are still under construction at present.