Marijuana Chemical Could Treat Children with Epilepsy

By Carl Engelking | February 21, 2014 4:24 pm

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A new strain of marijuana has motivated hundreds of families with epileptic children to pack up and move to Colorado to legally obtain the drug. The jury is still out on whether this special pot strain does indeed have measurable benefits, or if it’s even safe, but drug companies are racing to replicate its effects in pill form.

The therapeutic pot strain, called Charlotte’s Web, is bred not have THC­—the active ingredient in marijuana. Its namesake is 5-year-old Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl who has Dravet’s syndrome. Charlotte reportedly went from having 300 seizures a week in 2010 to being virtually seizure-free two years later after connecting with a nonprofit that grows and produces an oil infused with the special marijuana strain.

Charlotte’s story has renewed curiosity among researchers in a particular chemical in pot, cannabidiol (CBD), which could have anti-epileptic properties in humans.

Suppressing Seizures

CBD has shown some signs of promise of suppressing seizures in animals, but testing in humans is still in its infancy. A small number of case reports exist with conflicting results, and researchers have conducted just four placebo-controlled clinical trials that focused on CBD’s efficacy as a treatment for epilepsy.

Three of the four trials reported at least some reduction of seizure occurrences, according to a 2014 review published in Drug Testing and Analysis. However, the trials only involved 48 patients in total, too small a group from which to draw reliable statistics.

The first clinical trial conducted in humans, published in 1980 in the journal Pharmacology, is most frequently cited as evidence of CBD’s promise. Four out of eight test subjects that suffered from epilepsy remained nearly seizure-free throughout the 4-1/2-month experiment, while three others reported slight improvements. Additionally, people who took CBD didn’t report psychoactive side effects associated with smoking marijuana. The patients took the CBD in 200- to 300-milligram capsules once a day.

Despite the lack of definitive evidence, the National Epilepsy Foundation came out Thursday to voice strong support for continued research of medical marijuana, encouraging lawmakers to continue to allow families to use marijuana as a treatment for their children.

CBD Enters Clinical Trials

This year will shift CBD research up a gear. In October 2013 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that clinical trials of CBD’s efficacy in epileptic children could move forward. Clinical trials of a drug called Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of CBD, started this month. The study will be conducted at five sites, each with 25 children who have epilepsy.

Marcia Roberta Cillio, director of research at UC San Francisco, oversees one of the trial locations. She explained the research in a news release from UCSF:

“Studies in animal models have shows CBD works as an anticonvulsant, but this is just the initial exploratory step to determine whether further testing of CBD as an anticonvulsant is warranted, and how it will be conducted. Our current trial will hopefully lead to a placebo-controlled, blinded clinical trial in the types of epilepsy that respond best to CBD.”

Researchers hope to present initial findings by the middle of this year.

Photo credit: sarra22/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
  • Storm Crow

    If you look on line, you can find the 1949 study “Anti-Epileptic Action of Marijuana-Active Substances”. During the 70s and 80s, several studies came out on using cannabidiol for epilepsy – “Hypnotic and Antiepileptic Effects of Cannabidiol” is just one. “Treatment with CBD in Oily Solution for Paediatric Epilepsies” is dated 2005. ScienceDirect just put out an abstract that examines the view of the parents of kids with Dravets- “Report of a Parent Survey of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant Epilepsy”. The parents seem to think it is working better than the pharmaceutical drugs! Seems to me there ALREADY have been studies done on it!

    • claygooding

      Wanting more studies is an empty cup,,reporting that our government and it’s “scientific” arm doesn’t know enough about possible harms in cannabis to legalize it is more propaganda.

      NIDA has done nothing but search for harm since 1973 when it was created to prove marijuana was a dangerous addictive drug,,,22,000 studies and “may be linked with” is all they have..

      • rose maryawn

        my Aunty Julia got silver Volkswagen Beetle Convertible by
        working parttime off of a home computer… Look At This C­a­s­h­D­u­t­i­e­s­.­ℂ­o­m

  • rsteeb

    Google: “anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value” [from 170 YEARS ago]
    “The jury is still out”???

  • Robert Eckerson

    Just save the money and order copies of the Israelis’ studies, they’ve been leading the research for years.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mrs Scott-hunt

    Please, how long does it take to evaporate? I’d like to try this method. Thanks!

    • claygooding

      Since I have only done small extractions I used a pyrex pie plate,,a large pyrex baking dish would hold quite a bit,,with screen over it to keep out debris and a small fan circulating the air and keeping fumes build up a non issue,,strain alcohol from material into a glass jar and pour into drying dish as alcohol evaporates,,may take a few days depending on amount done,,after it evaporates down to wet looking oily substance scrape up with single edge razor and allow to continue to dry,,once dried you can use brandy or or vodka,,small amount,,to “melt it down to fluid again and measure dosages,,,adding a few drops to peanut butter does wonders for night time leg cramps and arthritis,,and no high.

      • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

        Or you can just eat it, and by eat it I mean put the herb in mouth, chew, and swallow. no cooking or processing of any kind. And no high.

        • claygooding

          grind to dust first…we don’t have the digestive track to break up grass like a cow,,,a bud buster with a kief screen takes a lot of “medicine” without most of the plant matter and you can mix the kief with peanut butter and eat it.

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mrs Scott-hunt

            Would a coffee grinder work?

          • claygooding

            You can use a CG to turn dried marijuana into dust and mix it in with your food/drink and it will give you THCA but the THC will partially activate and you may get a slight buzz,,very slight,,

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mrs Scott-hunt

            Thanks, I like the CG idea. I could add the powder to shakes. I was also thinking of just eating the fresh leaves.

        • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mrs Scott-hunt

          Wow, thank you! Glass pie dish, alcohol, bacon-splash screen, fan, razor, and no high. Sounds great!

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