According to WHO, epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases and is characterized mainly by typical recurrent seizures of different nature. “Seizure” is a transient sudden overexcitation of the neurons of the cerebral cortex. Epilepsy can also lead to deficits in sensorimotor and cognitive activity, impairing quality of life and increasing the risk of premature death.
The role of cannabidiol in treating epilepsy began to be studied by scientists in the early 1990s, and the results of numerous studies have been promising.
Seizures can be classified based on a variety of factors, including:
- Place of onset.
- State of consciousness.
- Signs accompanying the seizure.
Epileptic seizures are divided into generalized, focal, and unclassified seizures. Focal ones are the most common. They are caused by abnormal electrical activity in a limited part of the brain and are divided into simple and complex. Simple focal seizures are characterized by motor, somatosensory and sensory manifestations, proceeding without impairment of consciousness. Complex focal seizures are accompanied by loss of consciousness. Generalized epileptic seizures, the second most common, usually result in loss of motor function and even loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disease. In 30% of patients with epilepsy, due to the failure of standard antiepileptic therapies, epilepsy develops into a resistant form. This form of epilepsy is characterized by recurrent seizures that adversely affect the quality of life.
Epilepsy comes with a variety of risks, including brain damage, physical injury, the possibility of drowning when one is in the water during a seizure, depression, and many others.
In most cases, the condition is the result of:
- Infection of the brain.
- Genetic predisposition.
- Head trauma.
- Perinatal factors.
Epilepsy sufferers may experience seizures in random order, sometimes once a year and sometimes up to hundreds of times a week or even a day. Severity varies from case to case and finding the right therapy can be difficult. However, an alternative has emerged: CBD.
Because of the beneficial properties of cannabis, medical marijuana has become one of the alternative therapies for treating epilepsy. By the way, it was the use of marijuana to treat epilepsy that was the main focus of medical research. But time passed and scientists obtained cannabidiol, which became an alternative to traditional medical marijuana the same way online casino games replaced land-based gambling.
The use of CBD began to gain momentum after adult patients, as well as parents of children with epilepsy, began to report a reduction in both the number of seizures and their severity. After receiving positive results, government agencies in various states in America began to revise legislation and in 2017, CBD was approved for the treatment of epilepsy in many states.
Over time, scientists began to pay more attention to the endocannabinoid system and its role and potential. And because CBD interacts with this system, its role in reducing epileptic activity became understandable.
Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 belong to the cannabinoid system and are present in the central nervous and immune systems. These receptors are designed to interact with cannabinoids such as CBD and are responsible for how synaptic communication occurs in the brain and, most importantly for epilepsy sufferers, how neuronal excitation in the brain is regulated. Studies have shown that cannabinoid receptors, once activated by CBD, begin to interact with the central nervous system and activate gamma-aminobutyric acid, which inhibits neuronal overexcitation, leading to a reduction in seizure frequency.
Epilepsy has accompanied mankind throughout its existence. But while recent medical advances have uncovered many facts about the causes of seizures, much remains unknown.
We already know that seizures mainly result from disturbed or abnormal electrochemical impulses that excite other neurons, muscles and even the glans, causing a reaction that causes various kinds of suffering. During epilepsy, neural activity leads to side effects: mood disorders, problems with physical body control, emotional changes, behavioral changes, etc.
During epilepsy, a huge number of discharges occur in the neurons, sometimes up to 500 per second. However, CBD can regulate the resulting impulses and provide relief. Researchers are still searching for and identifying the “major players” in epileptic seizures, but one of the ones already known is the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor (GABA), which is designed to inhibit (slow down) certain actions and reactions in the human body.
By changing the amount of GABA it is possible to influence the brain by changing epileptic activity. This is what made it possible to develop special medications that are prescribed to patients nowadays.
Antiepileptic drugs are not up to the task.
One of the main methods of treating epilepsy is taking anti-epileptic drugs. There are now more than 20 different types of medications available to reduce seizure frequency. However, 30-40% of patients continue to have seizures even while taking these drugs. Unfortunately, many of the traditional treatments for epilepsy are not as effective as they should be.
Other methods of treating epilepsy are:
- Electrical nerve stimulation.
- Changes in diet.
Taking antiepileptic drugs often leads to the following side effects:
- Weight loss.
- Loss of coordination.
- Mood disorders.
- Skin rash.
- Liver toxicity.
- Hair loss.
- Kidney stones.
- Loss of balance.
- Imbalance in blood cells.
It’s because of these side effects that many patients discontinue standard medications after an average of two years.
Unlike standard drugs, CBD does not have any serious side effects and that is why many epilepsy sufferers choose CBD for treatment.
In one study of the properties of CBD, 39% of epileptic patients who added CBD to their treatment regimen had fewer epileptic seizures than patients who took a placebo.
A number of other studies have confirmed that taking CBD does not cause any serious side effects, is not addictive, and the correlation between taking CBD and a reduction in seizures is direct.
The results of the study were so promising that for the first time ever, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Administration approved the CBD-based drug Epidiolex for the treatment of two forms of epilepsy in patients as young as two years old on June 25, 2018. This event was a historic milestone. Epilepsy sufferers now have a method to treat their disease!