In 2015, the American Epilepsy Society (AES) conducted a study that involved 261 patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy, mostly kids and young adults. The most common diagnoses were Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The scientists used medical marijuana for seizures treatment instead of or along with traditional pharmaceutical therapy.
After three months of CBD treatment, the researchers saw a significant reduction in seizure frequency in 45 percent of cases. Furthermore, by the end of the experiment, 9 percent of patients reported having no seizures at all.
The CBD treatment showed a higher level of efficacy for treating Dravet syndrome: the median overall reduction of seizure frequency among patients with Dravet syndrome was 62.7 percent. And 13 percent of patients diagnosed with Dravet syndrome reported having no seizures by the end of the 12-weeks-long CBD treatment course.
The authors of the study concluded that CBD may be a promising treatment for drug-resistant forms of epilepsy.
But, of course, more research is needed in order to make sure that we may use marijuana for seizures and that cannabis-based treatment is both safe and effective. The scientists need to collect more data in order to fully understand the way cannabis affects human brain and body. The problem is that as long as marijuana remains on the Schedule I substances list, no further research may be conducted.
To make things even worse, in December 2016, the DEA announced a new code for marijuana extracts and CBD oil in particular. That decision raised serious concerns among medical cannabis patients. Parents of children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy were more than just concerned; many were outraged.
Although some experts insist that DEA's decision does not change the legal status of marijuana extracts and only confirms that all kinds of cannabis plants remain illegal, the agency's move poses a serious threat to medical cannabis.
Before the implementation of the new code for “marihuana extracts,” as the DEA calls it, there was a loophole in the law that allowed scientists and most importantly patients with the treatment-resistant forms epilepsy to use hemp-derived CBD oil. But the Federal Register, released last month, includes a few lines stating that marijuana extracts “derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis,” including hemp, are all Schedule I substances.
Basically, this statement shuts down the loophole in the law that existed before, making it illegal to use marijuana oil for seizures, even if it is a non-psychoactive CBD oil derived from hemp.
At the same time, other countries acknowledge the medicinal effect CBD oil has on patients with epilepsy and other severe conditions. In Australia, for example, medical marijuana was legalized this fall. Currently, Australian scientists study the effects of both THC and CBD on patients with cancer, epilepsy, and other severe diagnoses.
And in the UK, a group of scientists is working on an extensive study on medical cannabis and arthritis. Both countries will hold massive clinical trials that will help the scientists understand if cannabis may be used as an effective and harmless treatment.