[UPDATED] Cannabidiol: Does CBD Really Reduce Seizures in Kids?
While it is true that the cannabis (marijuana) is frequently used for its “high” producing qualities, it is not the only purpose for which it can be used.
‘Cannabis sativa’ is the common name of this flowering plant. However, it has many other names in popular culture such as pot, weed, grass, ganja and Mary Jane. These names mostly reference the plant as a drug that produces hallucinogenic effects, altering perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior.
It is important to note that the “high” producing effects of using marijuana actually only comes from one chemical in the plant. This is the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It is one of more than 100 other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Of these 100+ cannabinoids, one, in particular, has medicinal properties that can alleviate the devastating effects of a rare form of epilepsy. In fact, research has shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can effectively decrease the number of seizures experienced.
Cannabidiol, more simply known as CBD, is one of the active cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. The ‘Cannabis sativa’ can be found indigenously in eastern Asia, but it is more widespread now due to cultivation.
Historically, Its seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals. The fibers and stalks are used in hemp clothing, construction materials, paper, biofuel, plastic composites, as well as many other things.
Not only does it not have the high-inducing qualities of its chemical cousin, THC, but it can also counteract THC’s psychoactive side effects. CBD can give relief to those suffering from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, spasms, seizures and that’s the short list.
Research on CBD has shown to improve these conditions and diseases as well:
Arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, antibiotic-resistant infections and other neurological disorders. Due to its neuroprotective and neurogenic effects, CBD also has cancer-resistant properties that are also currently being researched at multiple facilities across the United States.
Dravet Syndrome is a rare epileptic disorder that results in multiple forms of seizures, developmental delays, speech and language problems, behavioral issues as well as movement and balance problems.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that can disrupt the electrical communication within the brain. As it is a spectrum disorder, epilepsy can produce various different symptoms that can be treated accordingly.
Typically, epilepsy manifests itself in the form of seizures. The seizures experienced by those with Dravet Syndrome are typically drug-resistant, which can increase the risk for death and pulmonary complications, such as aspiration pneumonia and resulting sepsis.
This syndrome rears its ugly head in patients when they are children. In fact, the Dravet Syndrome can affect those as young as a year old. This condition has a staggeringly high mortality rate despite its rarity, 15% of patients die before age 7, while 20% die before age 20. Moreover, most patients with Dravet Syndrome have major cognitive impairments and learning disabilities.
The studies showing CBD is effective in reducing the effects of Dravet Syndrome was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2017. The funding for this study was subsidized by GW Pharmaceuticals, which is a company currently developing cannabidiol medicines.
This study used a model that is considered as the gold standard for any new medicine. To be more specific, it is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial.
For this trial, a grand total of 120 patients previously diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome were randomly chosen to participate. The patients, ranging from 2 to 18 in age, were given either the medicine under study, an oral solution of cannabidiol, or a placebo. They took this along with their typical antiepileptic medications for a period of 14 weeks.
During this time, the number of convulsive seizures experienced by those on the CBD medication plummeted from an average of 12.4 to 5.9 per month. Meanwhile, the group with the placebo experienced a reduction of 14.9 to 14.1. To make the difference clearer, the numbers translate to a 39% drop in convulsive seizure frequency in those taking CBD compared to a 13% decrease in the group not taking it.
However, there was no change in the occurrence of non-convulsive seizures experienced by both groups. 5% of the children taking CBD even became seizure-free during this trial period. Overall, parents of the group taking CBD saw greater positive changes than those of the placebo group.
It should be noted that such a significant reduction in seizure frequency came with a price. The majority of the patients taking CBD experienced various side-effects. However, three-quarters of those in the placebo group experienced them, as well. Among the side-effects experienced by the patients are diarrhea, fatigue, lower appetite and increased sleepiness. Because of these side-effects, numerous patients chose to drop out from the trial, with more leaving from the CBD group than the placebo group.
How can CBD Help Children Suffering from Seizures?
So far, it has been established that CBD does, in fact, reduce the number of seizures experiences, but how?
CBD works in various ways to combat the occurrence of seizures. In essence, CBD regulates the functions of different components in your child’s body. This includes calcium ion channels, sodium ion channels, glutamate receptor antagonists, the GATA system and receptor agonists, in the brain. CBD also has anticonvulsants that affect neurotransmitters sending messages to neurons, preventing them from having any issues on their communicative journey.
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