what strain of cbd oil do i need for seizures

Best Cannabis Strains for Seizures + Epilepsy

The use of marijuana in the treatment of seizures and epilepsy is a widely discussed topic. Seizures are classified as unusual electrical activity in the brain that can manifest in a variety of ways, including the shaking of all or part of the body, a change in behavior, or a change in consciousness level. Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. However, not all people with seizures necessarily have epilepsy. There are also types of seizures called psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. These may be the result of a psychiatric disorder (and not a physical cause).

In 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved a medication comprised of CBD for the treatment of seizures associated with two specific types of epilepsy. The medication is called Epidiolex, and it can be used in patients who have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Studies showed that taking Epidiolex in combination with other medications could reduce the frequency that these patients experience seizures.

Given the efficacy of Epidiolex and of Charlotte’s Web (whose story is outlined below), it is possible that other forms of CBD may also play a role in treating seizures. Here are five strains of cannabis that may be beneficial. Please note that these haven’t been proven to be the best strains for seizures and epilepsy in any studies; they are merely our recommendations based on their CBD content.

1. Charlotte’s Web

This is one of the most popular strains suggested to help with seizures. It is named after Charlotte Figi, a little girl who suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy (and one of the forms that can be treated with Epidiolex). The Stanley Brothers developed Charlotte’s Web to help with Charlotte’s rare condition. It contains an average of 0.3% THC and very high amounts of CBD. As a result, this strain may be ideal for epilepsy patients who don’t want the risk of intoxication.

The Stanleys were able to significantly reduce the THC content of the strain while still boosting its CBD. They created a product with an exceptionally calming “body high” without any mental side effects. Little Charlotte was experiencing extremely violent seizures hundreds of times a week before she used CBD. After she started using the high-CBD cannabis oil, her seizures were reduced from over a thousand to just a handful each month. This strain has a “web-like” appearance, with thick, long trichomes wrapped around the buds.

Charlotte’s Web is still a relatively rare strain. Nonetheless, it is highly sought after by medical marijuana communities across the country, as many proponents claim that Charlotte’s Web is hugely effective in reducing seizures.

2. ACDC

The ACDC strain is an evenly-balanced hybrid with a 50:50 sativa to indica ratio. The reason that this strain makes this list is that it is a high CBD, low THC strain. Some ACDC strains can contain up to twenty times more CBD than THC. More typically, though, the ACDC strain contains, on average, approximately 6% THC and around 15% CBD. Therefore, this strain more commonly has a CBD: THC ratio of about 2.5:1.

Another potential benefit of this strain is because of its low THC content; consumers are unlikely to experience a psychoactive high after using it. Many users of this strain describe its effects as predominantly uplifting and relaxing. Due to its well-balanced genetics, consumers of the ACDC strain are unlikely to experience any drowsiness or sedating effects. This makes the ACDC strain suitable for daytime use.

3. Cannatonic

Cannatonic is potentially useful for managing epilepsy and seizures, headaches, fatigue, muscle spasms, migraines, and chronic pain. It offers a less-cloudy, focus-inducing high because of its low THC content, which is between 7% and 15%. It also has a high CBD content of approximately 12%.

A powerful and relaxing strain, Cannatonic could help to focus the mind. However, these effects are overshadowed by the intense numbing and warming sensations that flow over the body. Cannatonic is unique in its chemical composition, which doesn’t have the sole purpose of getting the user high. Instead, it could work on medical conditions from the inside out.

This strain has the potential to profoundly enhance mood, as some say it seems as if they are floating on a cloud after consuming it. Possible outcomes include increased feelings of positivity and optimism, together with a boost of energy. Users say the high is calm, and the strain is suitable for use at any time of the day. Cannatonic shouldn’t seriously affect motivation levels or produce any drowsiness or sleepiness.

4. Ringo’s Gift

While reports of the THC contained in Ringo’s Gift tend to vary considerably, many believe that this strain has an extremely low THC content and a significantly higher CBD content. Some suggest that Ringo’s Gift contains as little as 1% THC and around 15% CBD.

Ringo’s Gift is named after Lawerence Ringo, who was a cannabis activist and an advocate of the potential benefits of high CBD strains. Many consumers of this strain say that it can deeply relax the body without causing couch-lock or any feeling of sedation. This makes Ringo’s Gift a potential daytime option for cannabis consumers.

5. Harlequin

Harlequin is the only sativa-dominant (75:25) hybrid on this list. As is the case with the ACDC and Cannatonic strains, Harlequin contains a higher CBD than THC content. Most Harlequin strains contain an average THC range of between 7-10% and a CBD level of between 8.5-15%.

Many Harlequin consumers describe its effects as uplifting and mildly energizing, to begin with. These initial effects tend to taper off before being replaced by a feeling of relaxation.

Harlequin consumers say that its cerebral effects are relatively clear-headed, which allows them to continue to carry on with their daily tasks. This makes the Harlequin strain suitable for daytime consumption.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Strains for Seizures and Epilepsy

On June 25, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved a medication called Epidiolex, which is now used to treat two specific kinds of childhood epilepsy, namely Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome. As the active ingredient in Epidiolex is CBD, this has naturally piqued the interest of cannabis consumers who have epilepsy.

However, we would caution anyone considering consuming any of the strains on this list, or any other high-CBD strain for that matter, to discuss it with their medical professional before doing so.

We are not medical experts at WayofLeaf, and none of the information contained in this article is meant in any way, shape, or form, to be interpreted as us giving medical advice to our readers. As mentioned above, the strains that appear on this list were merely chosen as they contain significant amounts of CBD, and cannabidiol is one of the main ingredients used in Epidiolex.

Marijuana for the Treatment of Seizure Disorders

ABSTRACT: Cannabis, the substance more commonly known as marijuana, has gained interest in recent years for its potential use as an antiepileptic agent. The two main components of marijuana are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which has had mixed effects in epilepsy, and cannabidiol, which has shown more consistent anticonvulsant effects. Data supporting the use of marijuana for this purpose are limited, as the majority of clinical trials were conducted before 1990. There are case reports showing promising results; however, the data are inconsistent and cannot be generalized. The legal issues surrounding marijuana in the United States also may limit the use of this substance as an antiepileptic.

Epilepsy is defined as recurrent and ongoing seizures caused by changes in neuronal firing in the brain. Whereas nonepileptic seizures are not associated with neurophysiological changes, 3% of the population is predisposed to otherwise unprovoked, recurrent epileptic seizures. 1 Current pharmacotherapy for epilepsy aims to restore normal neuronal function and decrease seizure frequency. Prospective, randomized trials estimate that individuals experiencing a first, unprovoked seizure have a 40% to 50% chance of seizure recurrence at 2 years. The risk of recurrence, which diminishes with time, is highest immediately following the first seizure, with 80% to 90% of patients experiencing recurrent seizures within the first 2 years. 2,3 Despite available treatments, about 30% of patients remain resistant to therapy (fail two or more antiepileptics), resulting in poorly controlled and recurring seizures. 4,5 This review discusses the current research on, rationale for, and limitations to the use of marijuana for the treatment of seizure disorders.

Historical Medical Use of Cannabis

The earliest documented use of cannabis (marijuana) occurred in about 2,700 bc in China, where it was used for a variety of medical ailments, including gout, malaria, constipation, menstrual disorders, and absentmindedness. Western medicine adopted the use of cannabis as a common analgesic in the 19th century. 6

Cannabis was available in U.S. pharmacies as an OTC product until the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act limited its accessibility. Subsequently, the passing of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 gave cannabis a Schedule I classification, making its use illegal. 7 Since 1970, there has been increasing interest in the use of marijuana for its possible antiepileptic properties. 4

Pharmacology

Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are two species of the Cannabis genus of flowering plants. Both of these species have a long history of use as an antiepileptic, with sativa strains causing more psychotropic and stimulating effects and indica strains causing more sedation. 6 Compounds contained in the cannabis plant are known as cannabinoids.

Cannabis contains two main components: the psychoactive portion of marijuana known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the nonpsychoactive portion known as cannabidiol (CBD). What makes cannabis an attractive agent for epilepsy is the presence of cannabinoid type 1 receptors in the hippocampus and amygdala, both of which are associated with partial seizures. 8 The THC component of cannabis is a partial agonist at these receptors. 9 Conversely, CBD interacts with other nonendocannabinoid signaling systems, reducing the psychotropic activity of THC while increasing tolerance. 6 Recent trials of CBD have shown more consistent anticonvulsant properties, and this cannabinoid has gained interest as a possible agent for epilepsy. 9,10

There are many potential routes of administration for synthetic CBD, the only non–delta-9-THC phytocannabinoid assessed for its anticonvulsant effects in clinical trials. 6 The most common delivery route is by inhalation, either recreationally or for medicinal purposes. Because of the highly lipophilic nature of CBD and its high volume of distribution, the lungs are an effective route of medication delivery, with rapid distribution into the brain, adipose tissue, and organs. Cannabinoids are extensively metabolized by the liver, predominantly by CYP3A2, CYP3A4, CYP2C8, CYP2C9, and CYP2C19. Owing to significant first-pass metabolism through the liver, CBD is only about 6% bioavailable, thus rendering oral, oral-mucosal, and sublingual routes of delivery less desirable. The transdermal route of administration has also been considered; however, this route may be economically impractical, since special delivery systems are needed to prevent excessive accumulation of CBD in the skin. 11,12

Marijuana as Treatment

Clinical trials examining the efficacy of marijuana for treating epilepsy are limited. One of the earliest was a small randomized, controlled study conducted by Mechoulam in 1970. 13 In this trial, nine patients with treatment-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy received either CBD or placebo for 5 weeks in addition to their current antiepileptic therapy. Two of the four CBD patients were seizure-free at 3-month follow-up, whereas none of the five placebo patients showed improvement. However, this trial was limited by its small sample size and lack of statistical analysis or power calculation. 13

Cunha and colleagues conducted a small randomized, controlled trial involving 15 patients with generalized epilepsy. 14 Seven patients received CBD and eight received matching placebo for 3 to 18 weeks. There were no reported toxicities, and four CBD patients compared with just one placebo patient were seizure-free. This study was limited in that it had no performed power calculation, no statistical analysis, and a small sample size. 14

Although a number of early small, controlled studies demonstrated some efficacy of CBD for epilepsy, more recent studies indicate that CBD has limited or no effect on epilepsy. In one trial, Trembly and Sherman examined the effect of marijuana on uncontrolled epilepsy. 15 No discernible effect was found overall, and there was no statistical analysis of trial outcomes or main effects. A study conducted by Ames and Cridland showed no difference between CBD and placebo. 16 As was the case in previous trials, the study population was small and there were no power calculations. 16

Various case reports have identified adult patients favoring marijuana as antiepileptic treatment, as well as parents who have sought marijuana with CBD content to treat resistant epilepsy in their children. 7,17,18 Some of these reports yield promising information; however, there is no consensus on dosage, formulation, route of administration, or duration of marijuana therapy. Placebo effect and recall bias may be confounding variables. These limited case reports highlight that there is a paucity of safety and efficacy data from randomized, controlled trials to establish the use of marijuana for the treatment of epilepsy. See TABLE 1 for a summary of studies on cannabinoid use as an antiepileptic.

Adverse Effects

Adverse effects of chronic marijuana use include addiction risk, negative effects on brain development, increased risk of certain mental illnesses, motor-vehicle accidents, and various effects on health. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, 9% of individuals who use marijuana may become addicted. In addition, discontinuation of habitual cannabis use may cause withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, dysphoria, enhanced cravings, and increased anxiety. 19

Marijuana initiation at a young age may impact brain development, as it can impair neural connectivity in specific areas of the brain, resulting in altered learning, memory, and function. Marijuana use in adolescence could lead to a heightened response to other drugs, paving the way for addictions to other drugs in adulthood.

Consistent marijuana use has been correlated with anxiety and depression; however, a causal relationship has not been established. There may also be a positive association between chronic marijuana smoking and an increased incidence of lung cancer, as well as other pulmonary diseases, through lung airway inflammation, airway resistance, and hyperinflation. 8,19

Heavy and chronic marijuana use may be correlated with the majority of the adverse effects, mostly attributable to the THC component. However, there may also be confounding variables; therefore, causality cannot be established. Future studies involving CBD may result in a different side-effect profile, since multiple small studies of CBD safety in humans have shown adequate tolerance with no significant side effects at dosages up to 1,500 mg per day by mouth or 30 mg IV when used acutely and chronically. 6,20

Current Medical Use

Currently, the FDA has not approved marijuana for any indication. However, 23 states and Washington, DC, have legalized the use of medical marijuana (containing delta-9-THC), and 22 states have approved it for seizure use (TABLE 2). In addition, Massachusetts allows marijuana for “conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.” 21 Medical marijuana use is licensed in Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel. 9

Future research involving drug products derived from botanical marijuana or synthetic versions and substances that act similarly to marijuana must be approved via an Investigational New Drug Application before human trials can be conducted. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Administration reviews the researcher registration application, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse is responsible for supplying research marijuana for trials. Ultimately, for a drug product to be approved for the U.S. market, the FDA must ensure that it meets necessary quality standards and is safe and efficacious. 22

Conclusion

There is insufficient evidence to form a reliable conclusion regarding the efficacy of marijuana as an antiepileptic agent. Despite case reports demonstrating efficacy in reducing seizure frequency and severity, limited clinical studies have been published on its use for this indication. Additionally, the studies conducted were inadequately powered, lacked complete information, and used small sample sizes. There are few studies of long-term administration of cannabis and its safety profile. Currently, legal restrictions on cannabis make it difficult to conduct large-scale clinical trials, as the FDA has classified marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. The utility of marijuana for the therapeutic treatment of epilepsy cannot be determined at this time; more large-scale studies are needed that assess the efficacy and safety of treatment with either high CBD-THC ratio marijuana or isolated CBD compounds.

Does Medical Marijuana Help Seizures?

In the state of Texas, medical marijuana was first approved for the treatment of epilepsy in 2015. Since that time, the use of legal medical cannabis has expanded to treat all forms of seizure disorder – not only “intractable epilepsy.”

At Compassionate Telemedicine, we are here to help you determine if medical marijuana is an option for you. We have board-certified physicians evaluate your symptoms to determine whether you’d benefit from a medical marijuana plan. Qualifying patients are then enrolled in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s CURT program – CURT is the system that allows physicians to register and prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients with certain medical conditions including seizure disorders.

In Texas, medical providers are more likely to recommend a cannabis treatment plan to patients with seizures as the medical community continues to discover the therapeutic properties of this substance. Since epilepsy and seizures can provoke a myriad of unwanted side effects that interfere with a person’s wellbeing, it’s crucial to explore alternative medication options that can bring patients relief. Today, cannabis has become a preferred treatment option that helps promote a sense of enhanced wellbeing while reducing the impact of seizures.

Medical Marijuana for Seizures

According to the Epilepsy Foundation , epilepsy and seizures affect almost 3 million Americans of all ages, at an estimated annual cost of $15.5 billion in direct and indirect costs. A cure does not exist for seizures or epilepsy, but certain medications can prevent epileptic seizures if taken regularly.

Available prescription treatments, however, feature numerous side effects as well as increased health risks for women and older patients. In some cases, the treatments may also be ineffective. Using medical marijuana for seizures has become a growing area of interest for pharmaceutical groups, which have begun clinical trials on medical cannabis for seizure treatment.

Medical marijuana for epilepsy and seizures has also gained support from the Epilepsy Foundation — as well as acknowledgments from organizations like the American Epilepsy Society — as a potential treatment, following the appropriate research and testing trials.

Understanding seizures, as well as their available treatments, is the first step towards understanding why medical cannabis for seizures is a viable treatment option that offers little to no side effects, giving patients relief and safety from seizures while letting them enjoy their daily life.

How Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment?

Many patients suffering from epilepsy and other seizure disorders have found great relief from medical marijuana, either taken by itself or in conjunction with more traditional medications. Others who suffer from seizures but can’t tolerate anti-seizure medications have used medical marijuana to successfully control seizure activity.

Medical marijuana lacks the side effects found in traditional medicines used to treat epilepsy. Marijuana side effects are typically mild and are classified as “low-risk.” Recent open-label and gold-standard studies have provided concrete evidence of medical marijuana’s side effects when used with and without anti-seizure medicine.

Side effects in these studies included:

  • Diarrhea in 17 percent of patients
  • Drowsiness in 21 percent of patients
  • Fatigue in 17 percent of patients
  • Decreased appetite in 16 percent of patients

It’s important to note that medical cannabis and the patient’s current anti-seizure medicine can interact, thereby causing certain side effects. Participants in the study also described medical marijuana’s effects, which went away, as mild or moderate.

Seizures in the study decreased by 54 percent for participants in the open-label study, who ranged from 2 to 26 years of age and didn’t respond previously to traditional anti-seizure medicine. Researchers also found that 89 percent of children participants’ seizures were reduced using medical cannabis.

In the two gold-standard studies, seizures dropped by more than 40 percent, while patients who received the placebo reported a seizure decrease of less than 20 percent. The overall response from the study was that seven out of every eight participants improved with medical marijuana for their seizures.

Another study, which focused on children with epilepsy, found medical cannabis reduced the frequency of seizures by 47 percent, which improved further to 50 percent after 20 weeks of treatment. Nine percent of patients also became seizure-free by using medical marijuana for their seizures.

An earlier medical marijuana study for seizures, completed in Israel, found similar results. An even earlier study from 2003, by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that the ingredients in marijuana and the cannabinoid receptor protein produced naturally in the body played a critical role in controlling spontaneous seizures in epilepsy.

The results from these various studies are promising and provide the insight researchers, parents and those with epilepsy are looking for when they ask if medical marijuana for seizures is a viable option. The lack of research into medical marijuana previously made this question difficult to answer using concrete scientific data.

Now that governments are beginning to accept marijuana as a medicine, studies are starting in earnest to learn about using medical cannabis for seizures as well as developing treatment plans and finding the best strain of medical marijuana for treating seizures.

Seizure Symptoms Treated by Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is highly esteemed by medical professionals for its ability to target multiple symptoms in patients while stimulating little to no adverse reactions in the process. For patients experiencing seizures, cannabis is a viable treatment option that targets and controls their unwanted symptoms.

Although the side effects of seizures are likely to vary from patient to patient, many individuals are likely to experience relief from the following symptoms when enrolling in a medical marijuana treatment plan:

  • Nausea, vomiting or gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Sudden feelings of anxiety
  • Uncontrollable bodily movements, jerking or spasms
  • Headaches

Cannabis has anti-inflammatory or pain reduction properties that can help a patient during the recovery process after a seizure. Medical marijuana can help boost serotonin levels which foster better emotional health, too.

How to Get Medical Marijuana for Seizures

At Compassionate Telemedicine, we are here to help you determine if medical marijuana is an option for you. We have board-certified physicians evaluate your symptoms to determine whether you’d benefit from a medical marijuana plan. Qualifying patients are then enrolled in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s CURT program – CURT is the system that allows physicians to register and prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients with certain medical conditions including seizure disorders.

Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for Seizures

In Texas, medical marijuana is legal for use only in tincture form – an oil based liquid composed of CBD and THC that is taken under the tongue and absorbed sublingually. It is illegal to smoke medical marijuana as form of treatment.

Best Strains of Marijuana for Seizures – Strains not available in Texas for Legal Use

One of the biggest movements to producing medical cannabis for seizure use is by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British pharmaceutical company, which conducted the earlier open-label study on the effects of medical marijuana on seizures. The product they tested is called Epidiolex, a 99 percent, oil-based extract of cannabidiol (CBD) that’s purified.

More than 85 types of cannabinoids are available, and CBD is one of the most popular ones. It’s known for its therapeutic relief of discomfort as well as eliminating or reducing seizures for some patients. CBD works by binding to receptors throughout the body. The second-most-popular type of cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which binds to the brain’s receptors, causing a psychoactive response.

A selection of cannabinoids, CBD included, effectively target epileptic seizures. By discovering and isolating these cannabinoids, growers have been able to provide families and patients with marijuana strains for their epilepsy. The cannabinoids that target epilepsy and seizures include:

  • CBD
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

Growers across the U.S. offer more than 80 marijuana strains for treating seizures. One of the most well-known strains is called Charlotte’s Web. Created for Charlotte Figi, the strain was developed by Realm of Caring, a medical marijuana group, and grown by the Stanley Brothers.

By using medical marijuana for her seizures, Charlotte’s seizures went from 1,200 a month to only one to two episodes. Medical studies of Charlotte’s Web demonstrate the strain’s effectiveness. A 2016 study in Colorado found 10 percent of patients became seizure-free while 60 percent reduced their epileptic episodes by 50 percent with Charlotte’s Web.

Other available marijuana strains that treat seizures and epilepsy include:

  • Bedford Glue
  • Larry Bird Kush
  • O.A.T.
  • Grapefruit Kush
  • Kushberry
  • Black Bubba
  • Athabasca
  • GI001

Strains like GI001 offer low amounts of THC, while the Bedford Glue strain contains a THC over 20 percent, but without debilitating effects. Athabasca also contains enough THC to create a mild psychoactive effect that’s helped some patients with epilepsy.

One of the challenges in using medical marijuana for seizures is the fact that a disease like epilepsy isn’t a one-
size-fits-all disorder. It features three categories of seizures, which are then sub-divided into additional types of seizures. Treating seizures, even with prescription medicine, requires trying different prescriptions and dosages.

While pharmaceutical companies have had the opportunity to test and develop multiple drugs for treating seizures, medical marijuana has been limited in taking advantage of those opportunities, due to federal and state regulations in the U.S., which have only recently been lifted in 29 states across the country.

The increased nationwide support for legal medical cannabis is helping marijuana be seen more widely as a medicine and is spurring the development of strains that treat diseases like epilepsy, which require a broader selection of individualized strains to help every patient gain normalcy back into their life.

More Information About Marijuana and Seizures

Before you start a medical marijuana plan to treat your seizures, it’s important to understand the various types of seizures experienced by patients and the best treatment options for these symptoms. The more you know about your condition, the more likely you are to have more success when deciding what best works for you.

What Are Seizures?

A seizure is caused by an abnormal over-activation of neurons in a specific part of the brain. If it happens in the motor area of the brain, then the other side of the body can start jerking involuntarily. Or if it happens in the visual part of the brain, then that person may see colorful flashing lights in their visual space. In many cases the seizure stops there. But in some cases, the abnormal neuronal activity can spread to the other side of the brain, causing jerking movements of both sides of the body and loss of consciousness. Learn more below about how medical marijuana can help treat seizures.

Seizures are classified as either non-epileptic or epileptic. When a seizure occurs two or more times — unprovoked by other health issues like blood clots, and spaced more than 24 hours apart — it’s often diagnosed as epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a disease. In the U.S., one percent of the population lives with epilepsy, and it’s estimated that one in 26 people will develop epilepsy during their lifetime, with children and older adults being most likely to develop the disease.

Types of Seizures

Seizures are classified into three areas — generalized onset, focal onset and unknown onset. All three categories cause electrical impulses in the brain that result in the physical symptoms of a seizure, as discussed below. To break the classification of seizures down further, generalized onset and focal onset seizures each have their own types of seizures.

The six types of generalized onset seizures include:

  1. Grand-Mal or Generalized Tonic-Clonic: Grand-Mal seizures cause you to lose consciousness and collapse. A loss of consciousness is followed by a “tonic” phase, where your body stiffens for 30 to 60 seconds, before a series of violent, jerking movements for another 30 to 60 seconds. Afterward, the body goes into a deep sleep. Around 25 percent of people with epilepsy suffer from this seizure.
  2. Absence: Absence seizures are brief and last only a few seconds, but occur multiple times a day. They’re often hard to spot, since a blank stare is the only symptom. Patients often notice these seizures when they realize they’re missing time from their day. It’s estimated only five percent of patients have this type of seizure.
  3. Myoclonic: Myoclonic seizures cause sporadic jerking. Sometimes this can feel like an electrical shock.
  4. Clonic: Clonic seizures result in repetitive and rhythmic jerks throughout the body. Those with clonic seizures are often hurt by falling, banging their head or biting their tongue, though this type is typically seen in infants.
  5. Tonic: Tonic seizures, as noted in Grand-Mal seizures, cause your body’s muscles to stiffen.
  6. Atonic: Atonic seizures cause a loss of your arm and leg’s muscle tone, which results in falls that can cause further injury. Less than one percent of those with epilepsy have atonic seizures.

The three types of focal onset seizures include:

1. Focal Onset Aware

Focal onset aware seizures affect 14 percent of people with epilepsy and are divided into four subcategories by symptoms — motor, autonomic, sensory and psychological. These subcategories are distinguished by their symptoms.

Motor symptoms, for example, cause the body to jerk and stiffen, while sensory symptoms cause odd or unusual sensations relating to the senses, such as strange sounds or weird tastes.

Autonomic symptoms relate to what functions your body automates, such as your bladder and intestines, and can cause you to lose control of your bladder during a seizure. Psychological symptoms involve intense emotions of fear or pleasure as well as deja-vu.

2. Focal Onset Impaired

Focal onset impaired seizures affect 36 percent of those with epilepsy. During these seizures, you lose awareness and your body does a series of repetitive and coordinated movements, like smacking your lips, chewing or even walking.

Partial seizures begin as either simple or complex before they transition into a violent Grand-Mal seizure. They’re also, in some cases, treatable through surgery.

Unknown onset seizures are seizures not witnessed or seen by other parties — who are essential to helping identifying seizures — as patients can lose consciousness. Seizures are also called “unknown onset seizures” when the beginning of the seizure isn’t known.

Because of the violent nature of some of these seizures — 34 percent of sudden deaths in children result from epilepsy — it’s essential that patients have access to medication that treats their symptoms and prevents or reduces future seizures.

What Causes Seizures?

The reason why patients develop epilepsy often goes unanswered, with 60 to 70 percent of patient cases declared unknown. If a cause is determined, it’s often a brain tumor, brain infection, head trauma or stroke. Genetics can also contribute to the development of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is categorized into a multitude of syndromes, based on factors ranging from the part of the brain being affected and the severity of the seizures to the cause and type of seizures the patient is experiencing. One of the rarest syndromes, yet one that has contributed substantially to the use of medical marijuana for epilepsy, is Dravet Syndrome.

Dravet Syndrome affects one in almost 16,000 infants. It begins within the first year and causes prolonged and frequent seizures which often lead to accidents, injuries and death. Traditional prescription medicines are available to treat Dravet Syndrome but aren’t always effective.

The family of Charlotte Figi encountered this challenge when their daughter continued to suffer from 300 seizures every week, even with prescription treatments. That’s why they turned to medical marijuana for their daughter’s seizure symptoms.

Symptoms and Side Effects of Seizures

Seizures have a wide variety of possible symptoms, depending on what parts of the brain are involved. Many types of seizures cause loss of awareness, twitching or shaking of the body. Symptoms of seizures come on suddenly, over just seconds to a minute, and commonly include:

  • Loss of awareness
  • Mental confusion
  • Speech impairment
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of muscle control and falling
  • Muscle movement, such as twitching, that might spread up or down an arm or leg
  • Muscle tension/tightening that causes twisting of the body, head, arms or legs.

Current Treatments Available and Their Side Effects

When patients begin treatment for seizures or epilepsy, only 60 percent of them find a medicine that controls seizures within the first two prescriptions used. When doctors try more than two drugs, the chance of the medicine working decreases substantially.

This is why, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, prescription medications control seizures in only about 70 percent of patients — which leaves 30 percent of patients without relief.

More than 31 generic drugs for epilepsy are available, with several offered under different brand names, such as Lyrica, Topamax and Epanutin. Like many prescription drugs, each comes with a series of potential side effects, some of which pose a serious health risk.

Traditional epileptic medications come with a catalog of side effects such as:

  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Double vision
  • Gum dysplasia
  • Hair loss
  • Hepatitis
  • Headaches
  • Hirsutism or male-pattern hair growth
  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Impaired memory or concentration
  • Irritability
  • Mood shifts
  • Polycystic ovaries
  • Nausea
  • Sedation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteadiness
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Serious health risks from these medicines include:

  • Rash or allergic reaction
  • Drop in white blood cell count
  • Drop body’s platelet count
  • Problems with liver or pancreas
  • Liver failure

Some of these drugs, such as benzodiazepines, also tend to become ineffective over time, as your body builds a tolerance for the medicine. In these scenarios, you’re faced with either changing your prescription or increasing your dosage, which could potentially lead to an adverse reaction.

Anti-seizure medicine also increases the risk of bone loss, especially in women who are already at an increased risk for osteoporosis. Patients who regularly use anti-seizure medicine have a 29 percent increase in hip fractures over a five-year period. The reason is that the drugs interfere with the body’s absorption of critical vitamins like calcium and Vitamin D.

Women face additional challenges when using epileptic medicine, as well. Oral contraceptives and hormonal implants, for example, are less effective on anti-seizure medicine. Other forms of birth control, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), are unaffected by epileptic drugs.

Pregnancy while on seizure medications also provides increased risks. Birth defects increase by 6.1 percent with epileptic medications, which is 3.9 percent higher than the average rate of congenital disabilities. Even without taking medicine, pregnancies for women with epilepsy are still at a higher risk for congenital disabilities.

One of the ways doctors try to combat these side effects and risks is through natural remedies, like encouraging patients to modify their lifestyle to reduce seizure triggers. Stress, lack of sleep and even a change in hormones can all trigger a seizure.

Self-management tactics include:

  • Using earplugs in noisy places
  • Listening to relaxing music or sounds
  • Avoiding flashing bulbs, discos and strobe lights
  • Limiting caffeine, alcohol and nicotine use
  • Sleeping eight hours each night
  • Exercising each week
  • Eating a well-balanced diet or adopting a ketogenic diet

Due to the side effects of prescription drugs for seizures, as well as their ineffectiveness for some patients, the medical community has continued to search for ways to manage or control seizure symptoms. While natural self-management approaches help, they aren’t a complete remedy.

Looking for natural remedies, however, has led doctors and patients like Charlotte Figi’s family to discover the use and impact of medical marijuana on seizures.