A buzz-free component of marijuana can benefit epilepsy patients who have particularly severe seizures, a new study suggests. Taking an extract of the cannabis compound cannabidiol substantially cut the patients’ number of seizures over nearly three months.
Cannabidiol seems to mitigate the psychoactive effect of THC, the main euphoria-inducing chemical in cannabis. But cannabidiol also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that earlier work suggested could benefit people with multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease (SN: 6/19/2010, p. 16).
The new study followed 137 epilepsy patients, with a median age of 11, who had seizures that had resisted treatment. Each received cannabidiol daily in liquid form. After 12 weeks, the average number of seizures dropped by about half.
Up to one-fifth of patients reported some diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue or loss of appetite, and 12 people stopped taking the compound because of side effects. The full findings will be reported April 22 at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology by neurologist Orrin Devinsky of New York University Langone Medical Center.
Devinsky says cannabidiol now needs to be tested against a placebo in epilepsy patients with these debilitating seizures. The study was supported by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company that is investigating the medicinal qualities of cannabis components.