Is CBD for epilepsy an effective treatment? Cannabidiol, which is found within the cannabis plant, has a number of medicinal uses. One of these is to reduce the frequency of convulsive seizures in people with severe and sometimes fatal epilepsy disorders. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that disrupts the electrical communication between neurons in the brain. This leads to convulsive seizures which involve a loss of consciousness, stiffened muscles, and jerking movements.
Epilepsy is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are varying degrees of severity. Which epilepsy syndrome one has is determined by clusters of symptoms or features. One very severe form is Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome begins in childhood and it causes multiple kinds of seizures, developmental delays, behavioral problems, speech and language issues, and movement and balance difficulties. Existing epilepsy medications are not effective for Dravet. Up to 20% of children with this syndrome die from seizures before their twentieth birthday.
In a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial study, among children taking cannabidiol, the frequency of convulsive seizures decreased 23% more than those taking the placebo. In this study, 120 patients, ranging from two to eighteen years old with Dravet syndrome were randomly assigned either cannabidiol or a placebo for 14 weeks. The participants in the cannabidiol group experienced a drop in their seizures from an average of 12.4 per month to 5.9 per month. The placebo group started with 14.9 per month, and after 14 weeks on the placebo, they were still experiencing 14.1 seizures per month. The cannabidiol group’s seizures decreased by 39% while the placebo group’s seizures decreased by only 13%.
Five percent of the children in this study became entirely seizure free during the 14 weeks. Generally, parents of the children in the cannabidiol group felt that they observed positive changes. The most widely reported side effect was fatigue.