There are numerous types of epilepsy and seizures that exist. Unfortunately many of these are what are considered to be resistant to drug treatment or therapy. These include conditions such as Dravetts Syndrome, and Lennox-Gastric-Syndrome, both of which are very chronic forms of epilepsy, along with other types of epilepsy (8). Though many studies that have been conducted, it has been shown that around 1/3 of patients have some form of uncontrolled epilepsy unaffected by any type of drug treatment (1). Fortunately there have been recent discoveries of additional forms of treatment to possibly assist with this, one being the use of the marijuana plant, specifically the part known as CBD which is short for cannabidiol. It has been shown to help with things such as memory, seizure severity, and motor skills when a seizure occurs (10). Here we try and answer the question of “How does marijuana help decrease seizures ?” by going over the chemical and mental aspects of things.
Mental Effectiveness of Marijuana
The first thing most individuals probably think of when talking about marijuana is its use recreationally. Although this is true, the part of the plant which causes these effects known as THC which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol brings with it things such as mental relaxation, and a euphoric type feeling. These effects have been shown to assist with mental conditions such as depression or anxiety, so both parts of the plant can have positive effects. This could directly relate to chemical changes similar to medications which in turn could cause the physical and psychological relaxation to occur.
Because of the increase in publicity that marijuana and CBD has received over the past years in using it for treatment of epilepsy and other conditions, there has been an increase in interest concerning its use. This has been seen both for individuals with epilepsy, and parents of children that suffer from it. This even includes many willing to take part in studies which may be occurring concerning its use (4). Concerning the mental and psychological effects that marijuana and CBD has on the individual, it may at times only be a perceived effect and more psychological in nature. This may be true for either individuals which have actual epilepsy, or what is known as non epileptic seizures, or non epileptic events. The perceived and actual effectiveness of using marijuana on seizure frequency is probably different for the different seizure types as well (5). As previously mentioned, the psychological and chemical effects of marijuana are probably somewhat connected, but what exact chemical reactions to marijuana assist in decreasing seizure frequency and intensity ?
Chemical effects of CBD on epilepsy
The effects in which the CBD has at effecting frequency and severity of seizures is what has been mainly looked at which we will cover here. The exact mechanism to which the CBD works in controlling seizure frequency and intensity is unknown (9), but there have been numerous studies which suggest specific actions of the brain in response to using CBD as possibly being a factor in seizure control. This includes use for both the child and adult populations, although more studies concerning the effectiveness for the adult population should be done (3). This is probably because of the majority of studies have probably been conducted on patients with the previously mentioned conditions, both of which occur more in the younger population.
The effectiveness of CBD for seizures in humans has been looked at in patients with the two chronic epilepsy conditions, while finding a decrease in seizure frequency for both conditions, suggesting the use of CBD along with current treatments as being an effective addition for the treatment of these conditions (1). The frequency and intensity of seizures seen in individuals suffering from other conditions such as autism is high as well, and the use of CBD as a treatment for seizures in these individuals may assist with treating the autism (11).
Brains reaction to marijuana
When it comes to the effectiveness of CBD on seizures, there are numerous parts to the plant that are looked at in addition to the CBD and THC. Some groups with either dravettes syndrome, or stimulated seizures have been looked at. They show that the marijuana is effective in treating the dravettes syndrome seizures in 60% of the aspects looked at compared to only 40% when seizures are stimulated. (2) There are different biochemical aspects of the brains’ reaction to the use of CBD which have been looked as being the possible targets behind decreases in seizure frequency and intensity as well (12). These may assist in changing the functioning of neuronal excitability which may in turn assist in decreasing frequency and severity of seizures. The main mechanisms looked at are receptors and blockers of receptors which in turn decrease the firing of neurons. This includes multiple cannabinoid receptors that can and are being looked at. (7) Although it is not known for sure, it is thought in theory that there are three possible reasons that a component of one receptor may have an effect on decreasing seizure frequency due to its relationship to CBD, but other targets should also be looked at. (6). There is much more to be explored in order to truly know why and how CBD works in assisting with decreasing seizures.
When you look at the numerous types of seizures that exist, anywhere from a general seizure, to more chronic forms such as dravettes syndrome or Lennox gastric syndrome, the use of CBD in decreasing both the intensity and frequency of seizures seen looks promising. This comes mainly from the biochemical aspect of how the CBD works, in causing the psychological and chemical reactions. This makes sense because many times emotional and mental stress can be triggers for seizures, and marijuana has both psychological and emotional effects. Being able to control any such emotion through effects of marijuana such as the relaxation that many strains bring may assist in decreasing some seizure types. In order to truly understand how marijuana works in decreasing seizures though more research needs to be done.