After decades of prohibition and vilification, cannabis is being embraced as a medicine once again. With legislation relaxing in some regions of the world, including several American states, scientific analysis of cannabis and its components is becoming increasingly possible.

It has been accepted for some time that the human body reacts in very specific ways to a family of chemicals found within the cannabis plant, known as cannabinoids. The human endocannabinoid system is heavily influenced by these compounds and is comprised of receptor sites that are found throughout the body. When cannabinoids are consumed, they activate these receptor sites, which in turn sustains a dramatic effect on certain diseases and conditions.

One condition that cannabis seems to display consistent potential in treating is epilepsy. More specifically, research has shown that cannabis may help to relieve seizures and associated symptoms of a rare and severe form of childhood epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

Kids Epilepsy Dravet Syndrom

DRAVET SYNDROME

Dravet syndrome can affect children as early as their first year of life. Around 80 percent of people who suffer from the condition have a gene mutation that causes issues within the biological processes of the brain. Sadly, most children who suffer from Dravet syndrome sustain some kind of developmental disability related to the condition.

The first seizure linked to Dravet syndrome is often characterised by a fever and involves a jerking motion that takes place on one side of the body. Seizures caused by the syndrome often last more than 2 minutes, however, life threatening seizures can last as long as 30 minutes.

SEIZURE TRIGGERS

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, seizures caused by Dravet syndrome include myoclonic seizures, tonic clonic seizures, absence seizures, atypical absence seizures, atonic seizures, partial seizures and non-convulsive status epilepticus. Some of these seizure types are triggered by infections, changes in body temperature, flashing lights and emotional stress. Problems that may be associated with Dravet syndrome include low motor tone, chronic infection, nutritional issues, autism and unsteady walking among other conditions.

Dravet syndrome is estimated to affect around 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 40,000 people. The condition is normally treated with an array of different pharmaceutical seizure medications. However, the ketogenic diet, a diet extremely high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrates, is known to have a positive effect.

THE ROLE OF CANNABIS

A recent study documented within The New England Journal of Medicine titled Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome displays how CBD may positively affect the condition. The authors of the study state that “The Dravet syndrome is a complex childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality rate. We studied cannabidiol for the treatment of drug-resistant seizures in the Dravet syndrome.”

Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, is one of the primary cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. CBD exhibits positive effects on a variety of medical disorders and diseases including epilepsy and has been shown to fight tumours, inflammation and anxiety.

Medication Dravet Syndrom Kids Epilepsy

The above research featured a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that assigned 120 children and young adults with Dravet syndrome and drug-resistant seizures with either CBD or a placebo. Both CBD and the placebo were administered via an oral solution. The solution with CBD contained 20mg of the cannabinoid per 1kg of body weight. Subjects were also given standard anti epileptic treatment.

The results of the study were overall quite positive. Indeed, subjects within the CBD group showed signs of improvement in symptoms. The percentage of patients in the CBD group that saw at least a 50 percent reduction in seizures was 43 percent, as opposed to the 27 percent within the placebo group.

The frequency of total seizures was significantly reduced in subjects within the group receiving CBD, however no significant reductions were witnessed within the placebo group. Additionally, 5 percent of the patients within the CBD group amazingly became seizure free, a stunning result that wasn’t witnessed in subjects from the placebo group.

CONCLUSION

Although the results from the study were impressive, CBD did not prove to be a panacea. Subjects within the CBD group did experience more adverse side effects than the placebo group, including fatigue, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The authors of the study concluded, “Among patients with the Dravet syndrome, cannabidiol resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency than placebo and was associated with higher rates of adverse events.” While this study may not answer exactly how CBD works to treat Dravet syndrome, it provides an encouraging precedent for further research on the subject.

 

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