CBD and Seizures: The FDA Has Approved Cannabidiol for Treatment
Posted on May 17th, 2021
Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, has gained a lot of popularity over recent years. This is due to its numerous potential health benefits as it may help improve anxiety and depression, pain, inflammation, sleep disorders, and neurological disorders. There have been claims that CBD can be used to treat seizures. According to the UNC School of Medicine, CBD can help alleviate seizures and normalize the brain rhythms in Angelman syndrome. The research on CBD and seizures is still in its infancy, and we still need more research. Below is a comprehensive guide on CBD and seizures and its safety. Read on to find out more.
What Are Seizures?
A seizure is an uncontrolled brain activity between the brain’s neurons that causes temporary abnormalities in muscle movements, sensations, and behaviors. They are changes in the brain’s electrical activity. In most cases, they will cause dramatic and noticeable symptoms, but you may not experience anything at all in other cases. Having two or more seizures within 24 hours with no identifiable cause is called epilepsy.
There are many types of seizures, each varying in severity and symptoms. The common symptoms include:
- Vision changes.
- Sudden feeling of fear.
- An out-of-body sensation.
- Feeling sick to your stomach.
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the legs and arms.
What Happens During A Seizure?
Doctors classify seizures in two ways; focal and generalized, depending on how and where the abnormal brain activity begins.
- Focal Seizures.
These usually occur in one area of the brain: if you know that you are having a seizure, it’s called a focal aware seizure. If not, it’s a focal impaired awareness seizure.
These seizures start in one part of the brain and spread to other areas. You will at first experience minor symptoms, known as aura, and will have a hunch that something is about to change. Most people describe the feeling as that of riding a roller coaster. As the seizure continues, more symptoms appear. You may experience minor shaking, feelings of confusion, or fumbling. These seizures can evolve into a significant issue, mainly if they spread to the entire brain and cause tonic-clonic seizures.
- Generalized Seizures.
These are surges of abnormal nerve discharges throughout the brain’s cortex at the same time. The leading cause is usually an imbalance in the inhibitory and excitatory circuits of the brain. The common types are tonic-clonic, atonic, and absence. For tonic-clonic, you are highly likely to lose your consciousness. These usually last a few minutes. Absence seizures only last a few seconds, causing you to stare into space. You may think you are daydreaming. For atonic, the muscles will suddenly go limp, and your body may fall to the ground. They are brief and generally last for only 15 seconds.
How Seizure Disorders Develop
The nerve cells of the brain send and receive electrical impulses, allowing them to communicate. Anything that disrupts this communication can lead to seizures. The leading cause of seizures is epilepsy. However, not everyone that suffers from seizures has epilepsy. It can also be triggered by:
- Sleep disorders
- Brain tumor
- Low blood sodium
- High fever, associated with meningitis
- Medications such as antidepressants and some pain relievers
- Autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis
- Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine
- Alcohol misuse
- Electric shock
- An electrolyte imbalance
- Kidney or liver failure
- High blood pressure
Do Seizures Go Away With Time?
About 6 in 10 people diagnosed with epilepsy can become seizure-free within a few years of treatment. Many people who study CBD and seizures claim that it can play a role in decreasing seizure frequency and severity. Some people will still have occasional seizures. Everyone reacts differently to these attacks and medications, so the results will vary.
Treatments For Seizures
The treatment for seizures depends on the cause. When you treat the reason, you will be more likely to prevent a recurrence. Treatments include:
- Nerve stimulation.
- Special diets such as ketogenic diets help improve seizure control.
- Medications. An example of this is Epidolex, which can treat certain seizures in children two years and older. Its active ingredient is CBD, making it the forerunner for CBD and seizures.
- Surgery to correct abnormalities such as lobectomy, corpus callosotomy, and thermal ablation.
What Are Cannabinoids?
These are chemicals in cannabis and hemp plants. There are about 66 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, each having its characteristics. The most common one is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Its psychoactive nature gives it intoxicating effects. The second most common is CBD.
What Is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical in cannabis and hemp plants. It is not psychoactive in the same way as THC, so it will not intoxicate you. It is naturally occurring and may treat epilepsy, seizures, pain, inflammation, and acne.
Effects of CBD
CBD has numerous positive potential health effects. These include:
- Pain relief
- Inflammation relief
- Epilepsy treatment
- Antipsychotic effects
- It helps treat acne
- Helps deal with sleep disorders
- It has neuroprotective properties
- Can alleviate cancer treatment symptoms like nausea and vomiting
- Decreases symptoms in people suffering from anxiety and depression
Where Does CBD Come From?
CBD comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant and has been widely useful for thousands of years. Hemp plants contain less than 0.3% of THC, which is why hemp CBD is quite popular. The US government has deemed hemp plants (and thus CBD) with less than 0.3% THC to be legal. CBD from marijuana plants usually has more than the legal limit of THC. So most products containing CBD extract theirs from hemp plants.
Will CBD Get You High?
No, CBD will not get you high. CBD is not psychoactive in the same way THC is, hence you will not get feelings of euphoria when you take it. CBD products must have less than 0.3 % THC to be legal. If a product adheres to this limit, it will not get you high.
CBD and Seizures
Research on CBD and seizures is still ongoing. There have been studies on humans with the below conditions that CBD has been effective in treating. Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome are two rare forms of epilepsy, whose syndromes usually appear in childhood and can cause seizures.
CBD for Dravet Syndrome
This is a rare form of epilepsy that causes seizures that do not respond very well to medication. Here, researchers compared the effects of 20mg/kg of Epidiolex taken daily with placebo in people aged between 2-18 years. Those who took Epidiolex had a significant drop in seizure frequency by 39%, compared to the 17% of the placebo.
CBD for Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome
This syndrome makes up 2-5% of childhood epilepsy cases. There were two 14 week clinical trials to examine the effectiveness of Epidlox for treating seizures in people with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. The 1st study compared the antiseizure effect between Epidolex and a placebo. Half of the people who took Epidolex got 44% fewer seizures, while half of the placebo group experienced 22% fewer seizures. In the 2nd study, people who took Epidiolex experienced fewer seizures than the placebo group.
CBD for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
This is a rare condition that occurs in 1 in every 6000 people. It is genetic and causes noncancerous tumors to grow in various parts of the body. These tumors can lead to seizures. The trial examined the effects of 25mg/kg and 50mg/kg of Epidiolex taken per day with a placebo in people suffering from tuberous sclerosis complex. With Epidiolex, the median improvement was 48%, compared to the 24% of placebo.
CBD for Other Seizures
There is still a lot of research yet to be done on the subject. However, there have been some promising results. For example, a 2018 study that examined the effects of CBD on people with one of the types of epileptic syndromes, including Doose syndrome, Aicardi syndrome, Dup15q syndrome, and CDKL5 deficiency disorder, found an improvement in their symptoms. The average seizures per month reduced from 59.4 to 22.5 over 48 weeks.
CBD and Seizures Management
The human body has a complex communications network within it called the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids such as CBD produce effects through their interaction with this system. The body has CB1 receptors present mainly in the brain and help coordinate pain, movement, moods, appetite, and memories. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are more common in the immune system and affect pain and inflammation. CBD stimulates the receptors to influence them. According to animal studies, the anti-seizure effects of CBD come from acting on TRPV1 and GPR55 receptors. This reduces the excitability of the neurons.
Conclusion: CBD and Seizures
CBD does not cure seizures long-term. However, it may help manage the frequency and severity. People who have taken CBD for seizures have reported a positive change in their symptoms.
CBD and its effects on seizures have become one of the most popular cannabis topics lately. The FDA has approved CBD to treat seizures from the two above rare forms of epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis complex. However, it is crucial to note that research on CBD effects on seizures is still ongoing. Therefore, talk to your doctor before you start taking CBD, as it may also interfere with some other medications, causing negative side effects. Also, ensure that you buy high quality CBD to keep any unsafe ingredients out of the product.