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Cannabis Cuts Seizure Frequency in 86% of Patients with Refractory Epilepsy

A new study investigating the efficacy of cannabis on refractory epilepsy found it reduced seizure frequency in 86 percent of patients.

After examining the effects of cannabis for treating refractory epilepsy in two medical marijuana states, scientists found it reduced seizure frequency in 86 percent of patients. Researchers Dustin Sulak, Russell Saneto, and Bonnie Goldstein published their results in a recent issue Epilepsy & Behavior.

Epilepsy affects an estimated 1.3 million to 2.8 million Americans. Nearly one-third of those patients suffer from seizures that are resistant to traditional anti-epilepsy treatments.

The study found that of the 272 total refractory epilepsy patients examined, cannabis treatments resulted in:

  • 26 (10 percent) patients experiencing complete seizure freedom
  • 75 (28 percent) patients experiencing a 76 to 99 percent reduction in seizures
  • 45 (17 percent) patients experiencing a 51 to 75 percent reduction in seizures
  • 60 (18 percent) patients experiencing a 26 to 50 percent reduction in seizures, and
  • 29 (15 percent) patients experiencing a 1 to 25 percent reduction in seizures

Only 14 percent of the patients found cannabis to be ineffective at reducing their seizure frequency. Sulak and his team also found increased alertness to be a beneficial side effect of the treatments and that only mild and infrequent adverse effects were reported.

While acknowledging that the results suggest that cannabis could be beneficial and should be considered for treating refractory epilepsy, the researchers urged for need for more clinical research.

“Despite the inherent clinical challenges, patients with refractory epilepsy may benefit from artisanal cannabis preparations,” the study concluded.

Part of the dire need for more research, they claim, is to better understand the dose-response relationship with cannabinoids and seizures. The study revealed a non-linear dose-response relationship, suggesting that administering more cannabinoids may not always be better.

“Clinicians are cautioned to avoid making the simple assumption that higher doses of cannabinoids will yield stronger therapeutic effects. If previous clinical improvements begin to diminish, especially after a dosage increase, clinicians may consider dosage reduction as a potential strategy to improve efficacy,” the study reads.

The study found that a majority of the patients used cannabidiol (CBD)-enriched cannabis. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in both hemp and marijuana. Some of the CBD-enriched cannabis that showed to be effective also contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), both of which are psychoactive compounds.

Previous research has found cannabinoids, particularly CBD, to be effective for seizure disorders. Just recently an Australian nationwide survey found cannabis to reduce seizures in 90 percent of adults and 71 percent of children with epilepsy. Renowned pediatric neurologist Dr. Saul Garza Morales last month announced he had found THC-free CBD hemp oil to elicit a 50 percent or greater reduction in seizure frequency in 33 of 39 children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. CBD hemp oil was also found to be effective for pediatric epilepsy in a survey just recently completed by respected physician Dr. Carlos Aguirre-Velazquez.

You can access Sulak’s entire study, “The current status of artisanal cannabis for the treatment of epilepsy in the United States,” via Epilepsy & Behavior.

Read more about the research investigating cannabis and epilepsy on our education page.