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Epilepsy and Medicinal Cannabis

Epilepsy is a chronic illness that is characterised by recurrent seizures - a rush of electrical activity in the brain. Since seizures as a result of epilepsy are usually random and unprovoked, epilepsy can severely impact quality of life.

Although 70% of people are able to control seizures via antiepileptic drugs, 30% of people suffering from epilepsy continue to suffer from randomised seizures despite taking medication. The treatment gap has inspired many to look towards alternatives to traditional western medicine, including naturopathy and medicinal cannabis.

What are the symptoms of epilepsy?

There are two types of epileptic seizures; focal and generalised, and depending on the type of seizure the symptoms may differ. The symptoms of a focal (or partial) seizure include:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Dizziness
  • Twitching or tingling limbs

Some of the symptoms of generalised seizures include:

  • Absence seizures: blank stares, may also cause repetitive movements such as blinking
  • Atonic seizures: loss of muscle control
  • Clonic seizures: repeated jerk muscle movements of the face, neck and arms
  • Myoclonic seizures: similar to clonic seizures except for the lower body 
  • Tonic-clonic seizures: 
    • Stiffening of the body
    • Shaking
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Tongue biting

How can medicinal cannabis help with epilepsy?

Studies into the efficacy of medicinal cannabis have been limited, but show positive results in patients who have a condition resistant to traditional antiepileptic medications. The studies showed that when combined with regular antiepileptic medication, medicinal cannabis was able to half the amount of seizures experienced in over 40% of participants. Although the cause of epilepsy is largely unknown, studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory and anticonvulsant properties of CBD are responsible for medicinal cannabis’ success in treating some of the symptoms of epilepsy.

For patients suffering from epilepsy, a CBD isolate is recommended but it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for the most appropriate treatment.

If you or a loved one are suffering from epilepsy and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.