Marijuana and Epilepsy: Can Weed Control Seizures?
Last Updated: October 28, 2022
People researching marijuana will likely encounter information touting that marijuana helps to prevent seizures. This can lead people to wonder if lighting up a joint may actually improve their health and reduce their risk of seizures.
Although marijuana can help prevent seizures, there is much more to the story. Only one ingredient in marijuana actually helps with seizures, and it only does so in a limited capacity.
Can Marijuana Cause Seizures?
While learning about marijuana, people will often wonder if the drug can actually cause seizures. Marijuana does have an effect on the brain’s function, as it stunts brain growth in children and teenagers if used at a young age. However, although marijuana does have several short- and long-term effects on the brain, it does not seem to cause or increase the risk of seizures.
Can Marijuana Help With Seizures?
Different products can be derived from the marijuana plant. These products often contain one or both of the two main active chemicals found in the marijuana plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the potentially addictive psychoactive substance that causes the altered sensation and high that accompanies marijuana.
CBD does not have any of the addictive or psychoactive properties of THC. On its own, CBD has been shown to be effective in helping reduce the risk of seizures in some situations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a CBD-based drug to be used in some rare, severe forms of epilepsy. It is important to note that CBD by itself — not marijuana in general — has been shown to help with seizures.
Marijuana and Epilepsy
CBD, a chemical found in marijuana, can help to reduce the risk of seizures in some situations. The only medication that uses CBD to treat people with epilepsy is the brand-name drug Epidiolex.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes repeated seizures. Seizures may be separated by several months or years, but they will occur multiple times in someone who has epilepsy. Epilepsy may occur on its own or be caused by other health conditions. People with epilepsy will typically be put on long-term medications to help reduce the risk of future seizures.
Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy
Medical marijuana is a term typically used for marijuana that comes in plant form, includes both THC and CBD and is used for a medical reason. While legal in over half of the states, natural marijuana from the plant has not been approved for any use by the FDA. Medical marijuana is not recommended by health care professionals or the FDA for people who have epilepsy.
While medical marijuana should not be used to treat epilepsy, a medicine that uses only CBD can be used to treat some rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Approved by the FDA under the brand name Epidiolex, this medication can be used specifically for people who have Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare forms of epilepsy. Like most epilepsy medications, this medicine requires a prescription and should not be used without first consulting with a doctor.
How Does Marijuana Help Seizures?
No one fully understands how CBD helps with seizures in some people, and its mechanisms are still being researched. However, scientists believe that it works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which has been described by a Harvard medical professor as “mysterious.” Little is known about this system, and it is a very active area of research. The exact way that CBD helps people with epilepsy is still yet to be discovered.
Studies show that CBD can help to reduce the likelihood of seizures in those who have epilepsy. The research indicates:
- In one study, 60% of people who used CBD reported improved symptoms of epilepsy.
- Around 40% of people involved in the same study saw a 50% or greater reduction in the number of seizures they experienced
- Around 5% of people using CBD to treat epilepsy became seizure-free
Research in this area is still ongoing, and statistics may change as scientists gain a better understanding of how CBD helps seizures.
CBD Oil for Seizures
While CBD has been approved by the FDA for certain types of epilepsy, it should only be used with medical guidance. This means that someone wanting to use CBD for epilepsy should first consult with their doctor and get a prescription for Epidiolex.
Using CBD oil on your own for seizures may not be the best option. This is because CBD is only used for very specific types of epilepsy, and there are many other treatment options that will likely work better for other types of epilepsy. If you want to use CBD oil to help manage seizures, speak with your doctor before making any changes to your medical treatment plan.
Epidiolex is only cleared to be used for certain conditions, including:
- Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
- Dravet syndrome
- Tuberous sclerosis complex
Dosing for Epidiolex is often weight-based, starting at 2.5 mg/kg and increasing to as high as 20 mg/kg in some situations. It is given as an oral solution so that it can be measured out for different individuals. Epidiolex requires a doctor’s prescription. Anyone wishing to use Epidiolex or any other CBD product to help with seizures should always speak with their doctor first.
Although marijuana may help with some conditions, it is still a drug that carries a risk of abuse and addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with marijuana, The Recovery Village Columbus can help. Contact us today to learn more about marijuana addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.
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- Jazz Pharmaceuticals. “Epidiolex.” Accessed June 2, 2022.
- American Association of Neurological Surgeons. “Epilepsy.” Accessed June 2, 2022.
- Grinspoon, Peter. “Medical marijuana.” Harvard Health Blog, April 10, 2020. Accessed June 2, 2022.
- Food and Drug Administration. “FDA and Cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process.” October 1, 2020. Accessed June 2, 2022.
- Gray, Royston A.; Whalley, Benjamin J. “The proposed mechanisms of action of CBD in epilepsy.” Epileptic Disorders, January 2020. Accessed June 2, 2022.
- Pamplona, Fabricio A.; da Silva, Lorenzo Rolim; Coan, Ana Carolina. “Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich […]l Data Meta-analysis.” Frontiers in Neurology, September 12, 2018. Accessed June 2, 2022.
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- Medscape. “Cannabidiol (Rx).” Accessed June 2, 2022.
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