Providing children with epilepsy accessibility to medical cannabis, particularly high CBD varieties, has often been a rallying cry to make medical cannabis legal in many states. Children with epilepsy have anecdotally responded very well to CBD treatment, which even spawned the creation of the famous cannabis strain Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s Web was created for a young Colorado girl named Charlotte who experienced a reduction in seizures after using CBD products. The young girl and her family were featured on Sanjay Gupta’s Weed, a CNN miniseries on medical marijuana, which exposed many folks, for the first time, to the modern-day science behind medicinal cannabis.
In a case earlier this year, Mark Zartler, a father from Texas admitted to illegally buying cannabis in order to provide his daughter with relief from her severe epilepsy. His admission was part of a plea for the legalization of medical cannabis in Texas, so his daughter and other children could have reliable access to treatment in the form of medical cannabis. Zartler, whose daughter has suffered from severe epilepsy almost her entire life, has found that no treatment has work as effectively as cannabis has to help his daughter.
A study out of the New England Journal of Medicine now provides more evidence, in the form of a formal clinical trial, around how much cannabis can help children with epilepsy.
CBD Proves Most Effective in Reducing Seizure Activity
The new study found that children who took a liquid form of CBD saw an average of a 39% decrease in seizures. The study was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial that tested the efficacy of Epidiolex, a liquid CBD medication created by the British company GW Pharmaceuticals. The patients featured in the study all had Dravets Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy that’s often associated with developmental issues.
Many children with Dravets Syndrome do not find relief with typical anti-seizure medications. The study included 120 participants from ages two to 18 who lived in the United States and Europe. The patients who participated in the study experienced between 4 and 1,717 seizures in a month before receiving treatment.
The patients either received a placebo or a dose of Epidiolex, in association with their normal anti-seizure medications. Patients who received Epidiolex saw an average of a 39% decrease in their seizures over the course of the study, compared to the placebo group who saw no change. Most of the active medication group did see some mild side effects, like fatigue, stomach discomfort and sleep problems. CBD, in most of the participants, had similar effects to other anti-seizure medications.
The study is based in a long record of using cannabis to aid people with epilepsy. There are even a few historical mentions of cannabis being used to help treat epilepsy. There’s evidence that cannabis was used in Sumeria in 1000 BC to treat epilepsy, and it was also used in the Victorian era as a treatment for epilepsy in Europe.
Dr. Orrin Devinsky, lead author of the study and director of NYU Langone's Comprehensive Epilepsy Center said about the study, "After 3,800 years of cannabis use for epilepsy ... we finally have solid evidence. CBD is an effective drug for this type of rare epilepsy but was not a panacea (or cure-all) for these children.” This study provides a true clinical trial that points to the benefits of cannabis for children with epilepsy, though the evidence is still relatively preliminary.
Synthetic Cannabinoids Available in 29 Countries
The medication used in the trial, Epidiolex, was created by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company on the cutting edge of cannabinoid therapies. This is the same company that created Sativex, a leading drug for multiple sclerosis that has been approved for use in 29 countries. The company conducts large amounts of cannabis research and focuses on isolating cannabinoids, rather than whole plant cannabis treatment. Their products, however, are made to be prescribed in a traditional medical setting.