Cannabis for seizures? The anecdotal evidence is piling up. And in the case of children, such successes are helping rally public sentiment for legislative change.
Stories of the cannabis plant’s effects on children with epilepsy are perhaps some of the most remarkable pieces of anecdotal evidence in support of legalization.
There’s the story of Charlotte Figi, reported by CNN in August of 2013, who began having grand mal seizures at 3 months old.
An otherwise healthy baby whose blood tests, EEGs, MRIs, and other medical tests returned nothing but perfectly normal results, Charlotte continued having seizures after that first episode, despite medical professionals’ assumptions that Charlotte would grow out of it. Instead, the seizures increased in intensity and regularity.
It wasn’t until Charlotte was 2 ½ that a neurologist in Colorado diagnosed her with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, which is responsible for a variety of complications, including prolonged and frequent seizures, as well as behavioral and developmental delays, among others.
When Charlotte was 5 years old and suffering from 300 grand mal seizures per week, her parents reached a breaking point. Feeling as though they’d exhausted all other options, the Figis decided to give cannabidiol (CBD) oil a try. Charlotte’s mother Paige admits that she previously opposed the use of medical cannabis but felt as though it was her family’s last resort. Within the first hour of administering the first dose of CBD oil, Charlotte’s seizures stopped.
At the time of the CNN report, Charlotte was 6 years old and having only one or two seizures per month.
Then there’s Sam Vogelstein, whose father wrote an article for Wired.com recounting the struggles of their epilepsy journey — both figurative and literal, as his wife traveled 5,350 miles with their 12-year-old son to try high-quality CBD in pill form in the UK.
Living in a legal state, the Vogelsteins originally purchased CBD oil products from dispensaries in California. However, in having the products lab tested, they found that the ratios of CBD to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, or the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes users feel high) often differed significantly from the product’s label. For instance, one product claiming a 10:1 ratio was actually 20:1, while another was 3:1.
The trip to the UK came from the family’s desperation to find a pharmaceutical-grade option.
Similar to the Charlotte Figi story, Sam’s response to the CBD pills he took during the two weeks of the trial was undeniable. And after overcoming a number of roadblocks and shelling about $120,000 in expenses (not including the cost of travel), the family was able to import the CBD medication, Epidiolex, into the states.
CBD and Epilepsy in Children Today
In late May of this year, The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of a double-blind study that tested both children and young adults with Dravet Syndrome. During the course of the study, one group of participants received a placebo, while the other received a CBD solution.
According to a CNN.com report of the study’s findings, “the decrease in the frequency of convulsive seizures — which involves a loss of consciousness, stiffened muscles and jerking movements — was 23 percentage points greater than the decrease in seizures among children taking a placebo.”
The Epilepsy Foundation reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed some epilepsy centers to prescribe Epediolex, the medication that worked well for Sam Vogelstein in the story above.
The organization also notes that any CBD product is a Schedule I substance, making it illegal to ship across state lines. However, CBD products have been legalized in some states where medical and recreational cannabis are otherwise not legal.
If you are interested in using cannabis for seizures or finding CBD products, check into your local regulations first.