An Australian nationwide survey of people with epilepsy reveals cannabis as effective for managing seizures in both adults and children.
A new Australian survey investigates medicinal cannabis use experiences among people with epilepsy. The study, published in Epilepsy & Behavior, found that 14 percent of people with epilepsy have used cannabis for treatment. Of those, 90 percent of adults and 71 percent of parents or guardians of children with epilepsy reported that cannabis was effective at reducing the frequency of seizures.
“Despite the limitations of a retrospective online survey, we can not ignore that a significant proportion of adults and children with epilepsy are using cannabis-based products in Australia, and many are self-reporting considerable benefits to their condition,” said the study’s lead author Anastasia Suraev.
The study found that the number of past anti-seizure drugs was a significant predictor of medical cannabis use in both adults and children. With every anti-seizure medication tried in the past, patients were 1.1 times more likely to try cannabis as a treatment.
“Cannabis products are often what people turn to when they have been unable to control their epilepsy with conventional medicine,” said CEO of Epilepsy Action Australia and study co-author Carol Ireland.
“Generally speaking, around 70 percent of people with epilepsy will respond quite well to conventional antiepileptic medicine. The other 25 to 30 percent [of people] have uncontrolled epilepsy who have tried many different drugs or are on a multitude of different drugs at the same time and are experiencing a lot of intolerable side effects,” Suraev told The Huffington Post.
The Epilepsy Action Australian study also revealed that across all respondents, the main reasons for consuming cannabis products was to manage epileptic seizures that had been resistant to traditional treatments and to obtain a treatment method that had more favorable side effects.
“This survey provides insight into the use of cannabis products for epilepsy, in particular some of the likely factors influencing use, as well as novel insights into the experiences of and attitudes towards medicinal cannabis in people with epilepsy in the Australian community,” said Suraev.
The findings come shortly after the Australian Parliament passed a measure legalizing medical marijuana. The amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act will allow cannabis to be grown in Australia for medical purposes for the first time. Regulations still need to be put in place before production can begin. The state of Victoria had last year passed a bill to allow access to children with severe epilepsy.
“This highlights a growing need to educate consumers and health professionals on the use of cannabis by people with epilepsy, and to provide safe and timely access to cannabinoid medicine in order to lessen people’s reliance on illicit black market products,” said Ireland.
The Epilepsy Action Australian study was conducted in partnership with The Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney. It surveyed 976 respondents.
You can read the entire study, “An Australian nationwide survey on medicinal cannabis use for epilepsy: History of antiepileptic drug treatment predicts medicinal cannabis use,” at Epilepsy & Behavior.