A non-psychoactive cannabis compound may cut seizure frequency in half in people with a severe epilepsy disorder, according to a new study.
Cannabidiol (CBD) shows promise as an effective treatment for a rare but severe form of epilepsy in a new study from researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 225 people with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome were given CBD over a 14-week period. The results were recently presented at American Academy of Neurology’s 69th Annual Meeting in Boston.
“Our study found that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control,” said Dr. Anup Patel of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and study author.
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plants marijuana and hemp. A CBD agent free of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound, was used for the study.
Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) is a rare type of epilepsy that typically develops between the ages of 3 and 5 years and can cause frequent seizures. Prior to the study, the participants were averaging 85 “drop seizures” per week. Drop seizures involve in the muscles suddenly becoming limp, causing a person to collapse to the ground.
“More importantly, they are the most disabling type of seizures and have a greater risk of injury,” Patel said.
In the study, participants were either given a high dose of CBD (20-mg/kg), a low dose of CBD (10-mg/kg), or a placebo. Forty-percent of high-dose participants and 36 percent of low-dose participants experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in drop seizures. Those given a high dose of CBD saw the frequency of their weekly drop seizures, on average, decrease by 42 percent. Those being given the lower dose experienced a 37 percent average reduction in seizure frequency. Those taking the placebo had an overall 17 percent reduction.
The participants in the study had tried an average of six traditional anti-epileptic medications without having much success prior to joining the study. Compared to the participants receiving the placebo, those receiving CBD were up to 2.6 times more likely to say their overall condition had improved.
“Our results suggest that cannabidiol may be effective for those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in treating drop seizures,” said Patel. “This is important because this kind of epilepsy is incredibly difficult to treat. While there were more side effects for those taking cannabidiol, they were mostly well-tolerated. I believe that it may become an important new treatment option for these patients.”
Ninety-four percent of those taking the higher dose of CBD, 84 percent of those taking the lower dose, and 72 percent of those taking the placebo reported side effects. The two most common side effects experienced included a decrease in appetite and sleepiness.
“Obviously, the rate was higher in the treatment arms, but it was very similar to the overall percentage of [adverse events] noted in other trials of patients with LGS,” said Patel. “This is a very sick population of patients and they often have other problems.”
Previous studies have also indicated that CBD has efficacy for seizure management in those with Lennox-Gastuat Syndrome. Earlier this month, a THC-free CBD oil caused a greater than 75 percent decrease in convulsions in 43 children with refractory epilepsy, while 16 percent reported being completely seizure free after treatments.
You can learn more about the studies investigating cannabis and its extracts’ effectiveness for reducing seizures by visiting our education page. Keep up with the latest studies by regularly visiting our news feed.