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Research continues into the benefits of medical cannabis and CBD for people living with epilepsy. Read about advocacy efforts at the Epilepsy There is evidence that Epidiolex – an FDA-approved CBD oil – could reduce epilepsy symptoms for people with certain syndromes. Find out more.

Advocacy: Medical Cannabis CBD

While not everyone with epilepsy should or would consider medical cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment option, some people living with uncontrolled seizures have reported beneficial effects and reduced seizure activity when using medical cannabis, especially strains rich in CBD. Further research is needed on the effects of medical cannabis on epilepsy, but when recommended by a treating physician, medical cannabis may be the best alternative for some individuals living with drug-resistant epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures.

Access to medical cannabis will support increased research efforts and allow individuals who have failed to gain seizure control an option for treatment.

Learn More:

Position

The Epilepsy Foundation is committed to supporting physician-directed care, and to exploring and advocating for all potential treatment options for epilepsy, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical cannabis. We support safe, legal access to medical cannabis and CBD if a patient and their health care team feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis or CBD for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks.

We also support breaking down barriers to research to better understand the potential therapeutic benefits and harms of cannabis. The Epilepsy Foundation does not have a policy position on adult use recreational cannabis programs – however, under these laws, individuals and their physicians are able to work together to access cannabis to control seizures when medically appropriate.

Status

As of November 2020, 48 states and the District of Columbia have legalized either the recreational or medical use of cannabis on the local level. Under federal law, cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance, and illegal to use, buy, sell, or possess. The restrictive Schedule I status also creates a significant barrier to conducting medical research on the benefits or harms of cannabis as a treatment option for epilepsy and seizures as well as other complex, chronic conditions.

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During the November 2020 elections, Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana residents approved ballot measures to allow for the adult recreational use of cannabis. Mississippi and South Dakota residents approved ballot measures to allow for the medical use of cannabis as well. The Arizona law will take effect on November 30, 2020 when election results are certified, and public sale of cannabis could begin as soon as March 2021. New Jersey’s constitutional amendment takes effect January 1, 2021 and will issue regulations and licenses for cannabis businesses in the coming months. On February 2, 2022, Mississippi became the 37th state to adopt medical cannabis laws when Governor Tate Reeves signed SB 2095 into law.

Should you take CBD oil for seizures?

There is evidence that Epidiolex – an FDA-approved CBD oil – could reduce epilepsy symptoms for people with certain syndromes. Find out more.

People have been using cannabis (also known as marijuana) to treat epilepsy for centuries. In the United States it only became legal to take marijuana products for medical reasons relatively recently. And, in 2018, a CBD oil for seizures called Epidiolex was approved by the FDA to treat certain epilepsy syndromes (CBD is a chemical found in cannabis plants).

Around one third of people with epilepsy have drug-resistant epilepsy, which means traditional medication does not control their seizures. For people with drug-resistant epilepsy (also known as refractory epilepsy), the possibility that medical marijuana could help them reduce or even end seizures is, of course, exciting.

Here is everything we know about Epidiolex, CBD oil and seizures.

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What is CBD?

Cannabidiol – known as CBD – is a chemical found in cannabis plants and it is believed to help treat a number of conditions. CBD can be extracted from marijuana plants and it is usually turned into an oil that you swallow. The FDA has approved one brand of CBD oil – Epidiolex – for the treatment of people with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, Dravet Syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex.

How does CBD oil stop seizures?

Researchers are still not exactly sure how CBD affects seizures, but it may help protect brain cells from becoming ‘over excited’ in a few different ways.

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Epidiolex – a CBD oil for seizures

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a new drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of three forms of epilepsy:

The medication was approved after several trials showed a significant reduction in seizures for people with these conditions (in combination with their existing anti-epilepsy drugs).

If you or someone you know has Dravet Syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and you would like to use this CBD oil for seizures, talk to your epilepsy specialist about Epidiolex.

Buying CBD oil for seizures at health food stores

It is possible to purchase CBD oil from health food stores in most, but not all, US states (the rules vary, so you should always check with your healthcare provider). Many companies promote the use of CBD oil for a range of conditions – from anxiety to insomnia to chronic pain. However, the Epidiolex brand is the only CBD oil that is FDA-approved to treat seizures.

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If you wish to purchase CBD oil for seizures, you should always speak with your doctor first.

Side effects and interactions between CBD oil and seizure medicine

While Epidiolex (and other CBD oils) may provide some relief from seizures, it should always be taken with caution and under guidance from a medical professional. This is because of:

  • Side effects: CBD oil can cause sleepiness, diarrhea, fatigue, decreased appetite and, potentially, liver damage
  • Interactions: CBD oil may interact with other anti-epilepsy drugs. People taking valproic acid may see an increase in liver enzymes which could cause liver damage, while people taking Clobazam may feel especially tired

Cautious optimism about CBD oil for seizures

It is always positive to learn about a new treatment for epilepsy, and the potential benefits of CBD oil Epidiolex for seizures are exciting. However, we are still learning about how CBD affects people with epilepsy, so until we know more it should not be seen as a replacement for standard treatments.

If you would like to find out more about Epidiolex, CBD oil and seizures, speak to your doctor about how it might work for you and whether it is safe for you to try it.

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