Epilepsy means living with sudden seizures. It affects children and adults alike. A person living with epilepsy faces the challenge of not knowing when an episode will strike. Although there are established treatments for reducing seizures, some people experience highly undesirable side effects.Medical cannabis, and specifically the cannabinoid called CBD, have shown promising treatment potential.
To learn more in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, please call Access Marijuana RX at 727-209-5470 or read How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Florida (2020 Guide). »
How Is Cannabis Used for Epilepsy Treatment in Florida?
While more clinical research is needed, many people living with epilepsy, or parents of children with epilepsy, have reported beneficial results from cannabis. People with uncontrolled seizures have reported reduced seizure activity particularly from marijuana strains high in CBD.1 Additionally, CBD does not produce the high associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so patients can get relief without the euphoric effect. Other people prefer THC to relieve their epilepsy symptoms, or a combination strain.
Cannabis is particularly promising for individuals living with drug-resistant epilepsy. In Florida, people suffering from seizures have been eligible for low-THC cannabis – called "Charlotte's Web" – since 2014, under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. The 2014 Act also applied to people with severe muscle spasms or cancer. Amendment 2 passed in November, 2016, and expanded medical marijuana to more medical conditions and hence more people.
How Can CBD Help Reduce the Frequency of Epileptic Seizures?
Medical marijuana, and CBD specifically, seems to reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures for some people, as well as other symptoms of the disorder, like depression and pain. Further research is needed to determine the exact way in which cannabis affects the abnormal, seizure-causing activity in the brain. We do know that cannabinoids like CBD bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system in your body. And the endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating the over-activity that causes epileptic seizures.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder affecting roughly 3 million people in America, children and adults included. About 400,000 people in Florida are living with epilepsy.2 The primary indication is seizures that recur over and over again, sometimes several hundred times a day. Depending on how the disorder is manifesting for an individual, it can make it difficult or impossible to work and drive. It can strain relationships and burden emotional health. But each person experiences it in their own way.
If you have epilepsy, you may experience different types of seizures. You may experience other neurological symptoms also.
The seizures are caused by abnormal activity in the brain that cause a surge of electrical activity in that organ. There are many types of seizures. The seizure itself is defined in part by the area of the brain affected and the parts of the body affected:
- Focal onset seizures, during which the abnormal activity is isolated to one area of the brain. The person may remain conscious, or they may lose consciousness partially or completely.
- Generalized onset seizures, during which both sides of the brain are affected. There are different types of generalized seizures.
- Unknown onset
Non-epileptic seizures may be caused by alcohol withdrawal, diabetes, mental pain and many other things. Epileptic seizures occur when the communication between neurons in your brain is not working correctly. Some people develop epilepsy following a severe brain injury or because of a tumor on the brain. In many cases, the exact cause is not known.
One-third of people with epilepsy develop a type that is resistant to conventional treatment. That means they have no means of controlling their seizures. Cannabis offers a promising alternative that may provide a solution for certain people. Talk to our doctors about whether it is right for you or your child.
Cannabis Drug for Epilepsy Approved by the FDA in 2018
There are of course many drugs designed to treat epilepsy. While there isn't a cure, these drugs help to control and reduce seizures and convulsions. Some people have found success with these drugs, but others struggle with side effects that make taking their medications undesirable. Cannabis has helped some epilepsy patients find relief when other drugs don't work, or in combination with their medications.
In the summer of 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex®, which is a plant-based CBD medication, although not the pure CBD products you find at one of Florida's dispensaries. Epidiolex is currently FDA-approved for people 2 years of age and older who suffer from Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These are rare and severe types of epilepsy that appear in childhood.
This is an historic approval. It is the first time the FDA has approved a plant-based drug derived from cannabis, although there have been synthetic cannabis medications on the market for some time now.
One of the most promising findings from the clinical trial of Epidiolex was a decrease in certain types of seizures for people who added the CBD product to their medication regimen. Some people did experience side effects, and some stopped taking the drug because of those effects. Our physicians can tell you more about the findings if you are curious, and help you decide if a 100% natural CBD or THC product from a dispensary may be right for you.
How Do I Know If I'm Eligible For A Medical Marijuana Card?
Only certain people qualify for medical marijuana cards in Florida. A consultation with a state-certified physician is necessary to assess your eligibility. At our practice, Dr. Lora Brown and Dr. Michael MacMillan provide assessments and enter those patients who qualify into the state's system. Once that step is completed, the state will begin processing your application. You should receive your ID card soon after, which can be used at the cannabis dispensary of your choice or to obtain home delivery of cannabis.
Ready to Take the Next Step? Call our Experienced, Compassionate Physicians.
If you are interested in finding out if you or your child is eligible for CBD or another type of medical marijuana to treat epilepsy and seizures, then please call Access Marijuana RX at 727-209-5470. Our experienced, caring physicians provide cannabis eligibility evaluations at our comfortable, state-of-the-art office in St. Petersburg, Florida. Patients visit us from across the surrounding areas, including Tampa and other cities.