Researchers Just Confirmed How Cannabis Can Treat A Rare, Drug-Resistant Childhood Epilepsy

Use of CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana, to fight severe seizures resulting from Dravet syndrome was validated through the most scientifically rigorous type of investigation possible.

A major argument against cannabis legalization is underpinned by the perspective that there is simply not enough scientifically verified information available on the drug -- good or bad. This viewpoint is not completely wrong. But it's self-serving and self-fulfilling. Proponents can just as easily argue that the lack of definitive knowledge is exactly why weed should be legalized, or at least rescheduled. If the science isn't settled, let's settle it. If that's really the argument we're having, the key question is: when do we know enough to open the gates to learn more?

The gap is closing quickly. Just-published results from trials for a CBD drug (Epidiolex) derived from the marijuana plant showed that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in weed, exudes great potential as a treatment for drug-resistant Dravet syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trials were conducted and overseen by a panel of researchers from esteemed institutions around the world, and the findings were published in the Journal of New England Medicine

For context, Dravet syndrome is no joke, usually surfacing in infants within the first year of life. According to the Dravet Foundation, patients suffering from the syndrome typically face a 15-20 percent mortality rate. Right now, “current treatment options are limited, and the constant care required for someone suffering from Dravet syndrome can severely impact the patient’s and the family’s quality of life.”

Still, hope persists for a treatment that is less detrimental to the body all thanks to the powers of CBD. 

To learn more about the possibility of CBD-based treatments for Dravet syndrome, researchers gave 120 randomly assigned children and young adults suffering from the disease either a CBD oral solution, a placebo, or a standard antiepileptic treatment over a 14-day period.

Interestingly enough, Epidiolex––the CBD drug compound researchers used during these trials––is manufactured by the U.K.-based G.W. Pharmaceuticals, who also funded this study.

“62 percent of caregivers in the cannabidiol group said their child’s overall condition improved during the trial"

As reported by The Guardian, “On average, the seizures experienced by the children were reduced by nearly 40 percent and 43 percent of those taking cannabidiol saw their seizures cut by half. Three children––5 percent––stopped having seizures altogether.” The side effects felt by the patients, which included drowsiness, fatigue, diarrhea, and reduced appetite, are reportedly not all that different from the standard treatment.  

Scientific American notes that, “62 percent of caregivers in the cannabidiol group said their child’s overall condition improved during the trial, compared with 34 percent in the placebo group.”

Researchers overseeing the Epidiolex trials concluded, “Among patients with the Dravet syndrome, cannabidiol resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency than placebo and was associated with higher rates of adverse events.”

The positive outcome is indeed cause for optimism.

Still, children suffering from Dravet syndrome are not the only patient demographic of ailing souls who might stand to benefit from CBD. This list includes current and former professional athletes who seek the muscle-relaxing, anti-inflammatory, and pain relief benefits.  

Even Mixed Martial Arts fighter Nate Diaz recently made headlines (and drew criticism from outside the cannabis world) for puffing on a CBD oil pen in a post-match interview. Based on these findings, he might have found the key to physical recovery.