Epilepsy in children is divided between easily controlled epilepsy and drug-resistant epilepsy or intractable epilepsy. The burden in which a child with intractable epilepsy and his family carries can’t be quantified because intractable epilepsy is not easily treated, thus, lessening the child’s quality of life.
Since no conventional medicine will cater to the disease, the quest for a cure trickled down to alternative medicine like cannabis. If you’ve been tracking on past news about cannabis, you’ll see that the world is littered with several families succumbing to several methods (even medically unproven ones) to save their kid. One story to take note of is of late Charlotte Figi.
The antiepileptic action of cannabis
The marijuana plant has over 100 cannabinoids (or phytocompounds) on its belt. Two of its most known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), and incidentally, these two cannabinoids have generated the most interest when it comes to treating epilepsy. THC is a psychoactive compound with a potential to control seizure while CBD is non-psychoactive with the same therapeutic value against seizure.
Biologically, the perceived therapeutic effects of THC is attributed to its ability to bind to certain receptors of the human endocannabinoid system. On the other hand, CBD has a little binding affinity to the endocannabinoid receptors but has an inhibiting power to the sometimes overpowering effects of THC on the human body. Thus, in a way, CBD acts to balance the effects of THC, which can sometimes lead to anxiety and paranoia.
CBD’s anticonvulsant activity is a culmination of its influences to various receptors, neurons, and protein of the human body. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory ability is also another factor why it can control seizures.
Medical Cannabis for Intractable Epilepsy in Childhood: A Review
In a review titled “Medical Cannabis for Intractable Epilepsy in Childhood: A Review,” they collected several data from the clinical studies of intractable epilepsy in children under CBD treatment. After analysis, the researchers concluded that pure CBD (i.e. Epidiolex) and CBD-rich cannabis oil extracts were found to control seizure among children with epilepsy.
Remarkably, the review also pointed out that CBD can control specific epileptic syndromes, Dravet syndrome and LGS, all of which are under the intractable epilepsy spectrum. However, the review strongly recommended that for CBD products to ethically and medically work on intractable epilepsy, the THC level should be so low as possible.
Aside from the possibility of aggravating seizure, THC also has additional short- and long-term side effects related to memory impairments, especially among children.
Even if the review greenlit the use of CBD for intractable epilepsy, it does not mean that all artisanal and commercial products featuring CBD should be patronized. Up to this day, there is still no full control over what is being offered in the black market.
In a test of commercial and artisanal CBD products in the United States, 64% of the samples studied were found practising false marketing tactics. What was declared on their brand’s packaging weren’t found or had inconsistent levels of concentrations on their actual product.