When it comes to seizures almost one-third of epileptics have a treatment-resistant form of the disease; making day to day life hard and unpredictable. However, oil derived from cannabis has shown promise in treating epileptic episodes.
One such sufferer of seizures, Charlotte Figi, was diagnosed with the Dravet Syndrome, a rare genetic brain dysfunction. This syndrome typically occurs in infants younger than one, and the seizures continue throughout their lifetime. Because of these seizures, developmental delays can occur. For this particular condition, all approved treatments have not been able to attain complete control of seizures.
As Charlotte’s parents discovered how severe their daughter’s case was, they became more desperate to ease Charlotte’s day to day inflictions. While searching online, her father, Matt, discovered a video of a boy in California also suffering from Dravet Syndrome. In this video the boy received a special variation of cannabis that was low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, and high in cannabidiol (CBD), which had no psychoactivity and many medicinal properties.
By this time Charlotte was 5, she was not able to eat, walk, or talk. Her total number of seizures per week was reaching 300, and her small heart had stopped on a few occasions.
It was at this point the Figis decided to find a doctor to treat Charlotte with cannabis. When a Harvard trained physician, Alan Shackelford, took on Charlotte’s case he stated,
“They had exhausted all of her treatment options. There really weren’t any steps they could take beyond what they had done. Everything had been tried — except cannabis.”
While searching for the most effective treatment, the Figi family came across the Stanely brothers who were one of Colorado’s largest dispensary owners and growers. These brothers were developing a strain of the plant high in CBD and low in THC, the perfect candidate for Charlotte’s treatment. After receiving the oil in her food twice a day for a year, Charlotte’s seizures were cut to 2-3 a month, a drastic difference from the 300 a week. Because of the successful treatment, this strain of the plant was given the name Charlotte’s Web in honor of the little girl.
A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine had encouraging results to further the use of cannabis to treat Dravet Syndrome. In the study a medication call Epidiolex, which is a purified CBD medication, was able to drop the amount of seizures by 40% in study participants who were children and young adults.
While evidence of the effectiveness of these types of treatments is being tested, scientists are learning more about CBD rich medications. A neurologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, Orrin Devinsky, described a problem with current medications as “One fear is that because of the way that the drugs are tested and screened, we’ve ended up with a lot of ‘me-too’ drugs that are all very similar.” This makes the potential for cannabis great because it’s unlike the current medications being used to treat patients suffering from seizures.