Medical Cannabis for Epilepsy: Eight Ways Mamedica Can Help

Medical cannabis for epilepsy: Why it’s needed

Epilepsy was the condition of a patient which triggered the domino effect of medical cannabis becoming legal in the UK in 2018. The tireless campaigning of Hannah Deacon, Mother to Alfie, helped influenced the government to adjust prescribing guidelines to allow life-saving treatment to be available to those under specific circumstances. Hannah’s son, Alfie suffered from 150 seizures per week and outlined accessing the medicine was ‘life-changing.’

Sunday 26th March marks ‘Purple Day,’ an International Epilepsy Awareness Day, read on to learn the eight ways medical cannabis can provide support to those with epilepsy and how to access medical cannabis for epilepsy.

1. Reducing seizure frequency:

Studies have shown that medical cannabis can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in people with epilepsy.

A 2015 study published in the journal Lancet Neurology evaluated the use of a purified form of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, in 162 patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. The study found that CBD treatment resulted in a significant reduction in the frequency of convulsive seizures compared to placebo.

cannabis for epilepsy

2. Decreasing inflammation:

Cannabis contains many different compounds, but two of the most well-known and studied are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both THC and CBD have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce inflammation in the brain, which is thought to play a role in seizures.

CBD has been found to be a key anti-inflammatory. Why? Because CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is key in regulating inflammation. In particular, CBD has been shown to modulate the activity of immune cells known as cytokines, which are responsible for initiating and maintaining inflammation in the body. CBD can also inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules known as prostaglandins.

3. Regulating neurotransmitters:

Medical cannabis can help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain, which can reduce the risk of seizures.

Medical cannabis can regulate neurotransmitters in the brain through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex signalling system that plays a role in regulating many physiological processes, including neurotransmission.

The ECS is composed of three main components: endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by the body), cannabinoid receptors (proteins located on the surface of cells that interact with cannabinoids), and enzymes that synthesise and degrade endocannabinoids.

When medical cannabis is consumed, its active compounds, such as THC and CBD, bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the body. This can result in a wide range of effects, including the regulation of neurotransmitters.

cannabis for epilepsy

4. Increasing GABA activity:

Cannabis can increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which can help reduce the risk of seizures.

5. Reducing anxiety and stress:

It can also help reduce anxiety and stress, which can trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy.

6. Improving sleep quality:

Medical cannabis can help improve sleep quality, which can reduce the risk of seizures. It works by interacting with ECS, binding to cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body, including in the brain.

Research suggests that the cannabinoids in medical cannabis, particularly THC and CBD, can improve sleep by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, increasing total sleep time, and improving the quality of sleep. These effects are likely due to the role of the ECS in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, as well as its involvement in the body’s stress response.

7. Enhancing mood:

Medical cannabis can enhance mood, which can help reduce the risk of seizures triggered by depression or anxiety. It is important to note that depression and anxiety do not cause epilepsy. However, research has suggested that there may be a bidirectional relationship between epilepsy and psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.

In terms of seizures, there are several types of epilepsy that may be triggered by depression or anxiety. One such type is psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES), which are also known as psychogenic seizures or pseudoseizures.

cannabis for epilepsy

8. Decreasing medication side effects:

Some people with epilepsy experience side effects from traditional medications, but medical cannabis can help reduce these side effects. CBD for example, has been shown to have anticonvulsant properties, meaning that they can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. This can allow patients to reduce the dose of their epileptic medications, which can in turn reduce their side effects.

When using medical cannabis for epilepsy, it can help alleviate some of the side effects of epileptic medications, such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Both THC and CBD have been shown to have antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties, and may be effective in reducing the nausea and vomiting that can be associated with some epileptic medications.

Accessing medical cannabis for epilepsy

Keep in mind, medical cannabis treatment can only be prescribed when first-line treatment has failed to provide adequate relief. If you’d like to learn more about accessing medical cannabis and the legal guidelines, read our blog article here.

Always consult a qualified doctor for guidance on accessing medical cannabis treatment safely. You can check your eligibility for treatment here.