Medical marijuana is a hot topic this election year. You’ve probably heard about cannabis being used to treat adults and children who have epilepsy and suffer from seizures. Are these claims true, and what other conditions can be treated with cannabis oil?
Scientists think that medical marijuana can impact symptoms like nausea, pain, anxiety, and insomnia by helping chemicals in our brain that regulate these areas work better. And doctors who advocate for medical cannabis and prescribe it to their patients believe that it can treat certain conditions and improve quality of life for patients without the extreme side effects associated with other drugs, such as narcotic pain relievers.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group for the management of treatment of epilepsy, evidence about the drug’s effects on seizures is inconclusive. In some clinical studies, cannabis oil has prevented seizures in a small number of epileptic patients. Anecdotal reports suggest that a substantial number of people with epilepsy have successfully used cannabis oil to decrease the number of seizures they experience; this is especially true for children with severe epilepsy.
Scientific research into the effects of marijuana on chronic illness is limited by both access and legality issues, as well as financial and time constraints. Federal drug laws currently prohibit most instances of medical marijuana reseach. However, U.S. researchers are currently studying the impact of Epidiolex, a purified cannabidiol (CBD) extract, on seizures that do not respond to other treatments. CBD is a type of nonpsychoactive marijuana extract. Among patients in the study, seizure frequency decreased an average of 50 percent in 12 weeks. Side effects were minor and included sleepiness and stomach issues.
An ongoing study by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is specifically concerned with the effects of a specific strain of marijuana on a type of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. By studying the genetics of those with the disease who have been treated with medical marijuana, the Anschutz researchers hope to find a genetic solution to the question of how cannabis can impact epilepsy.
Based on these findings, the Epilepsy Foundation currently advocates for access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical cannabis for those with uncontrolled seizures, under the care of a licensed physician. Another nonprofit organization, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), urges legislators to fund more research into cannabidiol, which has promise in treated children with epilepsy.
Despite federal barriers to its use, medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and available online from retailers such as Bridgetown Botanicals. While specific laws vary from state to state regarding access, it can be prescribed for a range of conditions including multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV, and Crohn’s Disease. Often, the drug is used to treat a symptom of the disease, such as nausea, sleeplessness, or pain, rather than the disease itself. Scientists are reportedly working on strains of marijuana that will retain the drug’s therapeutic properties without the “high” feeling associated with smoking pot.