It is always positive to learn about a new treatment for epilepsy, and the potential benefits of CBD oil for seizures in adults and children are exciting. However, we are still learning about how CBD affects people with epilepsy, so until we know more it should not be seen as a replacement for standard treatments.
The medication was approved after several trials showed a significant reduction in seizures for people with these conditions (in combination with their existing anti-epilepsy drugs).
If you or someone you know has Dravet Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and you would like to use CBD oil for seizures, talk to your epilepsy specialist about using the drug.
Side effects and interactions between CBD oil and seizure medicine
Cannabidiol – known as CBD – is a chemical found in cannabis plants and it is believed to help treat a number of conditions. It is different to THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that makes people feel ‘high’.
People have been using cannabis (also known as marijuana) to treat epilepsy for centuries. In the United States it only became legal to take marijuana products for medical reasons relatively recently. And, in 2018, a CBD oil for seizures called Epidiolex was approved by the FDA to treat certain epilepsy syndromes (CBD is a chemical found in cannabis plants).
While CBD oil may provide some relief from seizures, it should always be taken with caution and under guidance from a medical professional. This is because of:
Here is everything we know about CBD oil and seizures.
Dravet syndrome is a developmental disorder that begins in early childhood and is associated with multiple seizure types as well as seizures triggered by fevers. People with Dravet syndrome often have behavioral challenges and learning difficulties.
LGS is a developmental disorder that begins in early childhood and is characterized by multiple seizure types, as well as physical and cognitive deficits. The seizures of LGS are difficult to control and are managed with a different medication regimen than that which is used for most epilepsy types.
A 2019 review of studies on Epidiolex showed a sustained seizure frequency reduction of between 30 and 63 percent. Additionally, seizures were about half as severe and the postictal (after seizure) state was less severe as well.
Sometimes, children and adults who have LGS or Dravet syndrome have some difficulties taking oral medication due to difficulty swallowing, behavioral problems, and/or cognitive issues. It may be a challenge to get your child to take any medication, and you might need to develop strategies to help with this process.
In studies, these were more common in the first two weeks on Epidiolex, after which time they tended to diminish. Additionally, many of the studies on the drug involved at least one other anti-seizure drug as well, so the side effects may not all have been due to Epidiolex.
Interim guidance from the ABN states that there is only published evidence for the use of medicial cannabis in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Prescriptions should only be for cannabidiol.
The BPNA also recommends that where children are already taking other cannabis-based products that contain higher proportions of THC, they should be transitioned on to CBD until strong evidence for these products can be produced through clinical trials.
Guidance from the Association of British Neurologists (ABN)
“We recommend that these products undergo randomised clinical trials for efficacy and safety before they are routinely prescribed in the UK. We welcome the rescheduling of these products from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 that will enable their investigation in clinical trials.”
The British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA) has drawn up interim guidance around epilepsy on behalf of NHS England.
Cannabis-based medicinal products can only be prescribed by a specialist. A GP cannot prescribe the medication but could refer you to a specialist.