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Cannabidiol as Epilepsy Treatment: Does it Work?

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Cannabidiol or CBD has been gaining traction, with celebrities proclaiming their use of the substance. People also use CBD in the form of oils or salves for pain relief. Lately, plenty of studies point to its effectiveness in treating symptoms of refractory epilepsy, or seizures that are unresponsive to medicine. But what is cannabidiol exactly and how does it differ from marijuana?

What is Cannabidiol?

Cannabidiol is the second-most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis. Although it’s a major component of marijuana, it’s not extracted from the marijuana plant. CBD comes from the hemp plant, which is a different variety of the Cannabis sativa species. According to the World Health Organization, CBD does not cause a “high” and does not leave any trace of substance abuse or dependence in humans.

Is Cannabidiol Legal?

In most parts of the US, cannabidiol is easily accessible, although its legal status is still contestable. In 2014, state lawmakers legalized the medical use of cannabidiol in Utah, specifically for the treatment of refractory epilepsy. Utah is the first state to legalize CBD without legalizing other forms of cannabis.

In 2018, Utah voters approved Proposition 2, which allows patients to utilize marijuana for medical use and grow as many as six marijuana plants for personal use. A month later, Utah lawmakers passed the Utah Medical Cannabis Program. This bill requires the Utah Department of Health to issue medical cannabis cards, register doctors recommending cannabis, and license medical cannabis pharmacies.

Cannabidiol Use in Utah

With these legislations set forth, the use of CBD in Utah has surged. Because of its reported effectiveness in managing the symptoms of some of the most severe epilepsy syndromes, such as the Dravet Syndrome and the Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, parents signed up their children for cannabidiol treatment.

In 2014, a total of 262 epilepsy patients acquired CBD registration cards and as of 2018, 124 remain active.

To qualify for such treatment, a neurologist must diagnose the patient with a severe epilepsy syndrome that is untreatable by at least three other treatment options. Patients who have a registration card cannot be criminally penalized for the possession and use of cannabis extracts that contain at least 5 percent CBD and less than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Cannabidiol as Epilepsy Treatment

Despite the popularity and public enthusiasm about CBD treatment for children with epilepsy, there is still little scientific data that supports this approach. Of the 63 seizure applications, 45 reported ease in their seizure attacks, with one child having complete seizure control. While 18 percent of the patients reported having harsh side effects, such as diarrhea, fatigue, and increased seizures.

There is also a polarized perception toward administering cannabidiol to epilepsy patients, especially to children. Some people are averse to the idea of giving traces of marijuana to kids. But doctors and scientists have confirmed that cannabidiol is not a psychoactive drug and does not lead to substance dependence.

Some parents do have positive sentiments about using CBD as an epilepsy treatment. One of the parents who campaigned strongly for the legalization of CBD use in Utah is Jennifer May whose son has Dravet syndrome. Her son, Stockton, experiences between five to 30 seizures per day. He has tried a wide variety of treatments, with varying side-effects and effectiveness. Some treatments had severe side-effects, such as a failing liver and bone marrow. On top of the harsh health consequences, the treatments don’t manage Stockton’s seizures for very long either.

Today, the effectiveness of using cannabidiol for treating seizures still remains a case-to-case basis. The responsibility of ensuring its efficacy as a medical treatment falls on legislative bodies and the biomedical research field. But it’s up to parents and individuals to weigh the pros and cons and consider whether CBD is the best treatment option.

Meta Title: What Can Cannabidiol Do in Treating Epilepsy? | Lotus Blossom Consulting

Meta Description: CBD, although a main component of cannabis, is not a psychoactive drug. In Utah, cannabidiol is used to treat the symptoms of refractory epilepsy.

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