Cannabis may soon be turned into a new drug to help treat epilepsy in children, according to researchers testing the drug's effectiveness against the disorder. The medicine appeared to work where other treatment methods failed.
Cannabidiol, a liquid form of the medicinal drug, was provided to children in an effort to reduce the frequency of their symptoms. Children in the study exhibited severe forms of the condition that had not responded to other treatment methods. These included Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, which can result in a lifetime of seizures as well as mental disabilities.
Marijuana appears to reduce the frequency of seizures in children by 53 percent, early analysis suggests. However, 10 percent of the subjects in the study had to stop taking the medicine due to side effects, researchers noted. Cannabidiol does not contain THC, the component of marijuana that provides recreational users with the "high" feeling.
A total of 213 people were treated with oral doses of cannabidiol. Subjects ranged in age from two years old to 42. Median age in the study was 11 years of age. A total of 137 subjects completed all 12 weeks of the test, which involved daily consumption of the cannabis-based medicine.
Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome is marked by the sudden relaxation of muscles, resulting in "drop" seizures.
Side effects experienced by one out of 10 subjects in the study included drowsiness, lack of appetite and diarrhea.
"Though the early results are promising, we still have a lot more to find out about cannabidiol, from the proper dosing regimens to which patients might benefit more than others. In this national climate of increased acceptance towards medical marijuana, it is crucial that scientifically-validated research, not policy, guides patient care," Orrin Devinsky, director of New York University's Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, said.
Epilepsy affects around 5.1 million Americans, and two-thirds of these cases can be controlled through traditional medications. Cannabidiol could prove to be a method of controlling the condition in the one out of three patients who do not respond to such treatments.
Recent studies have shown promise in treating some cancers as well as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety using cannabinoids.
As medical marijuana becomes more common, and the effectiveness of cannabidiol becomes better documented, some families are beginning to move to states where the product is available. Cannabidiol is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis and is believed to have a wide scope of medical applications.
"So far there have been few formal studies on this marijuana extract. These results are of great interest, especially for the children and their parents who have been searching for an answer for these debilitating seizures," Devinsky said.
Details of the study will be delivered and presented at the 67th annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology to be held from April 18-25 in the nation's capital.
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