Experts discovered that marijuana extract may help children and young adults suffering from epilepsy. Children whose seizures are not being controlled by approved medications may now experience significant relief from their neurological symptoms.
Two studies delved into the effects of marijuana extract on patients with epilepsy. Although different in methods and strategies, the results of the studies are similar: marijuana can indeed help children and adolescents with treatment-resistant epilepsies.
For the first study, researchers gave British-made non-psychoactive cannabidiol oil called Epidiolex to 261 patients with an average age of 11. Together with existing anti-seizure medications, Epidiolex was administered by instilling a drop on the tongue.
Three months into the study, the seizure episodes of the patients plummeted to about 45 percent in all subjects. Nearly half of the participants reduced their seizure episodes to 50 percent or greater. Lastly, one out of 10 patients became free of seizures.
"This was a very, very treatment-resistant group, and the response was very promising," said Orrin Devinsky, study co-author and a neurologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.
For the second study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco delved into the long-term efficiency of cannabidiol for children with epilepsy. They added the marijuana extract to a conventional medication and administered it to approximately 25 children for one year.
The results of the study showed that 10 study subjects reduced their seizure episodes by 50 percent and one stayed seizure-free. Positive effects of cannabidiol seemed absent for 12 patients, thus, urging them to drop out of the study.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is said to provide relief in more than 50 percent of children with epilepsy. However, some critics say the positive results may have been driven by a placebo effect. The fact that the study subjects know they are taking the marijuana oil may have also affected the findings of the two new studies.
"We know that our placebo rates can be as high as 30 percent, and sometimes higher," said Amy Brooks-Kayal, president of American Epilepsy Society who was not involved in the two studies. She added that ongoing placebo-controlled studies are yet to be completed to identify the real effect of the marijuana extract.
The studies were presented at the American Epilepsy Society's annual meeting on Sunday, Dec. 6.
Photo : Martin Alonso | Flickr