Seizures and Epilepsy

Epilepsy Graphic

This month we are highlighting Seizure disorders including Epilepsy, which is on the list of qualifying conditions for the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program. Considering that 20-30 percent of epileptics are not adequately controlled with conventional medicine, more patients and physicians should be aware of the use of medical cannabis and these disorders.

The general term seizure disorder is used to describe any condition of which seizures are symptoms. Seizures are described as abnormal movements or behaviors due to unusual electrical activity in the brain. Brain cells communicate through electrical signals. When the electrical signals become abnormal it produces a sort of “electrical storm” causing a seizure. On the other hand, Pseudoseizures or non-epileptic seizures, which are not caused by abnormal electrical signals in the brain, are thought to be caused by physiological issues or stress.

Unfortunately, many cases of epilepsy can’t pinpoint a specific cause. Some of the more common causes of epilepsy include low oxygen during birth, head injuries, genetic conditions such as tuberous sclerosis, infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, stroke or other damage to the brain and abnormal levels such as sodium or blood sugar. There are various types of epilepsy; Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are when the person falls to the ground and the person’s muscles will begin to convulse (jerking or spasm); Absence seizures are when a person unknowingly stares into space for a few seconds and then “wakes up”; and Myoclonic seizures are known to make a person’s body jerk like it is being shocked.

Scientific studies show anecdotal but reproducible findings that cannabis has anticonvulsant properties and would be effective in treating partial epilepsies and generalized tonicocolonic seizures.

In a review  of the effects of cannabinoids, it stated that CBD and THCV have been suggested to exert antiepileptic actions in experimental studies.

A double-blind clinical study  of 18 patients suffering from secondary genralized epilepsy that was inadequately controlled by conventional medicine, showed promising results. Of the eight patients who received doses of cannabidiol, four were convulsion-free during the study and three other showed a clinical improvement.