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Epilepsy and Medical Marijuana: Links, Studies, and Promise

by in Medical Marijuana April 30, 2022

For years, scientists have studied and debated the use of cannabis for epilepsy and other neurological conditions. When, in 2018, the FDA approved an oral CBD-based prescription as a treatment for those with seizures related to two epilepsy syndromes, many saw it as a sign of hope. This treatment, Epidiolex, was a huge step forward to find solutions for children and adults with conditions that relate to epilepsy and seizures.

Are you ready to learn more about epilepsy and medical marijuana? Ozark MMJ Cards can help you find answers. Read on here for an exploration into epilepsy, weed, and hemp.

What Does FDA Approval Mean?

With an FDA approval, Epidiolex is the first-ever plant-based drug in the United States that’s derived from the cannabis plant. This approval of cannabis for epilepsy has massive implications on the categorization of cannabis as a Schedule I substance and indicates there may be even more changes to loosen cannabis restrictions in the future. With the DEA on board, legislators may soon be able to legalize cannabis use for all purposes.

Hopefully, fewer restrictions mean more studies into the link between epilepsy and medical marijuana.

What is Medical Cannabis?

Cannabis is the term used by botanists and pharmaceutical companies to refer to the entire plant. This term is often used interchangeably with “weed” and “marijuana” to refer to products that contain THC. In fact, marijuana usually refers to the female flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant.

Can Cannabis Help Seizures?

hemp cannabis plant

There are many lab studies, anecdotal reports, and clinical studies that suggest CBD could have massive potential to control seizures. Unfortunately, federal regulations and limited access to cannabis plants make research difficult. Coupled with financial constraints due to lack of funding, research into epilepsy and medical marijuana has been slow.

Currently, the most prominent studies show that there is some benefit in using cannabis for epilepsy, specifically CBD-based products for people who haven’t had any luck with more traditional therapies.

Where Does Hemp Come Into the Picture?

Hemp is a type of cannabis, specifically Cannabis Sativa L. This plant was historically grown for its fibrous material that can be used in everything from clothing and upholstery to shoes, paper, and building materials.

As part of the cannabis family, hemp does contain THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. While hemp-derived products were considered Schedule I substances in the past, as of December 2018, they have been exempted from this status. Hemp-derived CBD and THC are now considered agricultural commodities.

Even though the reclassification of hemp-derived medical marijuana for epilepsy has made research a little easier, there haven’t been any other FDA-approved drugs to reach the market. Because regulation of cannabis products is haphazard when compared to other medical substances, there is no uniformity in quality between batches.

Which Studies Support CBD for Epilepsy?

Nationally recognized studies that link epilepsy and medical marijuana are few and far between, but there are some available where it concerns Epidiolex. The main company that produces weed for epilepsy is Greenwich Biosciences. They produce a purified CBD extract from the cannabis plant for use in controlled clinical studies.

All clinical studies which have used Greenwich Biosciences cannabis were conducted the same way: scientists established a control group with some participants taking the placebo and others taking the CBD extract at different doses. Neither the study participants nor the researchers knew who was taking the CBD and who was taking the placebo. This type of double-blind study ensures more accurate results, as they’re untainted by researcher or participant expectations.

Trial Summaries

With several studies showing similar results, scientists have found a connection between epilepsy and medical marijuana. The summary below explains the method and conclusions of one landmark study:

  • 689 people with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Dravet Syndrome were treated with CBD extract for more than six months.
  • In addition to their other epilepsy medication, some received 10mg CBD per kilogram per day, while others received 20mg CBD per kilogram per day.
  • During the trial, only 9% of participants stopped taking the medication due to discomfort from side effects, including change in liver function, lethargy, or decreased appetite.
  • Among children and adults with LGS, the addition of the CBD extract resulted in reductions in the frequency of their seizures by an average of 40%.

Is Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy Safe?

epilepsy graphic

Clinical studies and trials of weed for epilepsy are the only way to know for sure what’s safe. While there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there from people who are self-medicating, it’s always best to talk to your doctor about the best options for you. A doctor may recommend that you try CBD products or cannabis for epilepsy under their supervision. Still, they may also tell you that your medications, pre-existing conditions, or other factors make this route the wrong choice for you.

Where to Get Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy

If you and your doctor have decided that medical marijuana is the right choice for your condition, there are processes in place for you to get a state-recognized card that allows you to purchase cannabis products. Regulations vary from state to state, as do qualifications and purchasing options.

In California, Oregon, and several other states, cannabis is completely legal and doesn’t require any certification process to purchase. However, if you live in Missouri, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, you will need some help to get a legal marijuana card. Ozark MMJ Cards provides services to qualifying residents in these areas to help them get the cannabis they need. If you live in one of these regions and you’re considering medical marijuana for epilepsy, please reach out to our team to learn more about the certification process for your state.

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