Aside from a small number of highly publicized individual cases, evidence for the safety and efficacy of cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy has, until now, remained thin. Yet a new study in the journal Frontiers in Neurology reveals that the drug can indeed significantly reduce the rate of seizures in children with severe epilepsy, and even eliminate convulsions altogether in some cases.
Much of the controversy surrounding cannabis-based medications concerns the unknown interactions between two of the plant’s ingredients: cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes marijuana users to get stoned.
In this particular experiment, researchers used a cannabis extract that contained 95 percent CBD and 5 percent THC, and administered it to seven children with extreme epilepsy, all of whom had seen no improvement with other medications.
The children were all given an initial dose of 5 to 6 milligrams of cannabis extract per kilogram of body weight each day. At this dosage, four of the seven participants saw a reduction of more than 50 percent in the number of daily seizures they experienced.
When this dose was doubled, all seven noticed a considerable improvement, with three of the children seeing their seizures stop altogether.
"Some of the improvements in quality of life were really dramatic with some of the children having huge improvements in their ability to communicate with their families,” said study author Richard Huntsman in a statement. “Some of these children started to talk or crawl for the first time. They became more interactive with their families and loved ones.”
The researchers also found that blood plasma levels of THC remained below the threshold for intoxication, and that none of the children exhibited any signs of being stoned.
Based on these results, the study authors propose that cannabis oil containing 95 percent CBD and 5 percent THC is safe and effective for the treatment of severe epilepsy in children.