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.
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.
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.
If you wish to purchase CBD oil for seizures, you should always speak with your doctor first.
Learn more: Why might a seizure medicine not work for you?
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.