Children born with Dravet syndrome – and their families – are extremely challenged, to say the least. This rare yet severe form of intractable epilepsy – also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI) – causes dozens of seizures every day, leaving these young patients exhausted and anxious and with anything but a normal life. With few effective treatments available, the parents of these patients have had nowhere to turn. Some of these parents have turned to oral Cannabidiol (CBD) and it has positively impacted their children’s conditions.
Cannabidiol (CBD), a very active chemical contained in marijuana – also known as cannabis – is a potential bright spot in an otherwise bleak medical prognosis for patients with Dravet syndrome. CBD has been shown to be a well-tolerated treatment that can reduce or in some cases, eliminate seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and other childhood epilepsy disorders. Some parents of children who were given oral CBD reported a noticeable and often significant reduction in their child’s seizures – in some cases down from 40-50 a day to fewer than 10. This can mean a rightful improvement in quality of life for these patients and their parents. Studies also indicate that CBD effectively controls Dravet syndrome and other epilepsy disorders with fewer side effects than currently available treatments. The studies to date are preliminary but promising nonetheless.
The antiseizure effect of CBD is just one example of how this cannabis component is changing the therapeutic landscape – and not just for patients with epilepsy. CBD is a potentially viable therapeutic option to relieve symptoms associated with several, difficult-to-treat conditions and disorders related to rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, nausea, bowel disorders, schizophrenia, and others.
While it is one of over 60 members of the cannabinoid family and provides the sedative effect of cannabis, CBD does not contain the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that delivers the ‘high’ of cannabis. Scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) cite evidence that CBD appears to act on other receptor signaling systems in the brain, and that these actions may contribute to its therapeutic effects. CBD is typically administered in pill form which may be more appealing to patients and their caregivers.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties have also been demonstrated in some early clinical studies. It is thought that CBD binds to receptors that control and therefore, minimize the pain and discomfort associated with some autoimmune diseases like arthritis. It may also help reduce the inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Patients with mental health disorders such as acute anxiety and some forms of psychosis such as schizophrenia may find CBD to be an effective alternative to current medications, as indicated by preliminary studies. The cause of action is not definitively understood but CBD seems to prevent the breakdown of a chemical in the brain that affects pain, mood, and mental function. Keeping this chemical intact and its levels steady in a person’s blood system seems to reduce psychotic symptoms. CBD may even offset the anxiety and panic symptoms that are associated with use of THC.
It doesn’t stop there. CBD is considered a potential therapeutic agent for several other medical and wellness conditions including:
- Appetite suppressant – Unlike THC which stimulates appetite, cannabidiol has the opposite effect and may have potential as a weight loss aid.
- Cancerous tumor growth inhibitor – Preclinical research indicates CBD is a potent inhibitor of cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and tumor growth and may be an effective, non-toxic therapy to treat aggressive forms of cancer.
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD) – CBD may effectively treat the symptoms associated with this psychological condition, which typically manifests as intense fear in social situations.
The future is sure to bring more clinical trial data and user reports of CBD and with it, additional evidence that CBD can help manage and eliminate patients’ disease-related symptoms, treatment-related side effects, reduce disease severity, and improve patient outcomes and quality of life.