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.