Cannabis for Epilepsy

How cannabis helps patients with epilepsy.

Explain briefly what epilepsy is and education how cannabis helps patients with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and can affect anyone during any point in their life. Today, over 2 million Americans live with epilepsy and 1 in every 26 people will develop it in their lifetime, making it much more common than most people might think. The primary treatments for people with epilepsy are pharmaceutical medications, with a long list of negative side effects, and different types of brain surgery. Unfortunately, about 30% of people diagnosed with epilepsy do not find relief through these methods. 

Luckily, cannabis is showing promise for treating the symptoms of epilepsy. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence from patients, and even a few clinical trials, regarding the effectiveness of cannabis for epilepsy. So far, cannabis seems to help reduce the frequency and duration of seizures, providing a better quality of life for patients living with the condition. In fact, after many years of  research focused on CBD and epilepsy, the FDA approved the very first plant based cannabis medication to treat epilepsy, called Epidiolex, in June of 2018. Epidiolex is a cannabis extract of pure CBD.

Remember, cannabinoids like CBD work within our endocannabinoid system to regulate homeostasis in our bodies. They have been patented by the United States as a neuroprotectant, meaning they help protect brain cells, which makes sense for helping treat neurological disorders like epilepsy. Although CBD has been the primary focus for treating epilepsy and other seizure conditions with cannabis, it is only one of hundreds of cannabinoids found in the plant, and may not be the only contributing factor to providing patients with symptom relief.

Some patients, like Alexis Bortell, who is a teenager currently involved in a federal lawsuit against the United States government to legalize cannabis, say that THC plays an important role in reducing her symptoms. Alexis, whose family moved from Texas to Colorado for cannabis treatment of her intractable epilepsy, would not have the same quality of life without THC. This is why she and other plaintiffs came together to initially file the lawsuit against United States back in 2017, but it’s still dragging on in court.

All of these positive reasons are why epilepsy is an approved qualifying condition for a medical cannabis patient card in most states with legal medical cannabis programs, including Missouri. The approval of Epidiolex helped cement the therapeutic use of cannabis for epilepsy and also helped convince key supporting organizations, like The Epilepsy Foundation, to change their stance on using it for treatment.

The Epilepsy Foundation, founded in 1968, is a national non-profit dedicated to the welfare of people with epilepsy and seizure disorders. They now support exploring and advocating for medical cannabis as a potential treatment option for the condition, but do recommend “anyone exploring any treatment for their epilepsy, as permitted under their state law, to work with their treating physician to make the best decisions for their own care.”

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