It may come as a surprise to some that a growing number of people have
turned to medical marijuana as a recourse for managing epilepsy.
Epilepsy, which is a brain disorder that causes people to have recurring
seizures, is the fourth most common neurological condition after
Alzheimer’s, stroke and migraine. A 2007
study by the National
Institute of Health (NIH) conducted to estimate the prevalence of
selected neurological disorders in the United Sates, put the occurrence
of epilepsy in the general population at 7.1 per 1,000.
Dravet Syndrome, a type of childhood epilepsy which typically starts in
infancy, has received a lot of attention due to the story of Charlotte
Figi of Colorado. Prior to using medical marijuana, Figi, who suffers
from Dravet Syndrome, had up to 300 grand mal seizures per week. The
Stanley brothers, owners of a marijuana grow business, developed a
specialized strain of medical marijuana that was high in cannabidiol
(CBD), the substance believed to reduce epileptic seizures, but low in
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound known to induce marijuana’s
psycho-activity. After ingesting a tincture of it, Figi’s seizures were
reduced to about two or three a month. Afterwards, the Stanley brothers
named the strain "Charlotte’s Web" in Figi’s honor.
A 2010 study by the NIH
examined the anti-seizure properties of cannabidiol and demonstrated
that CBD reduced the frequency of seizures in human trials. Due to how
well cannabis helps manage epilepsy, many families with young sufferers
have moved to states where medical marijuana is legal so that their
children can get some relief from the condition. Alongside others who
have used medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms of various diseases,
these "medical refugees" continue to lobby their elected representatives
to facilitate legal access to marijuana.
Currently, medical marijuana is listed as a Schedule I controlled
substance, which is the highest ranking reserved by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration for dangerous drugs with no medicinal value.
With this classification, those who want to study medical marijuana face
a lot of bureaucratic bottlenecks, while those who are caught with it
may face stiff federal penalties.
Due to limited scientific trials, the exact mechanism whereby medical
marijuana aids in the reduction of seizures is not specific, although
its cannabidiol content has shown positive effects on body systems and
could help in the management of seizures.