One third of patients with epilepsy do not find relief from conventional treatments – and that is where cannabis can play an important role to relief symptoms! Come and find out all about how it can help in these cases.
A problem with many causes: epileptic seizures are very common, and can affect about one in a hundred people. In most cases, seizures are the result of minor injuries or scarring in the brain, but they can also be a sign of some other problem – from strokes to syndromes caused by congenital malformations.
And it is not new that cannabis is considered an option in the treatment of epilepsy and seizures. Studies show evidence of its use in these cases since antiquity, and its resumption happened gradually, thanks to the efforts of many incredible doctors and researchers like the great Elisaldo Carlini (rest in peace, Carlini ❤️). Currently, there are already drugs approved by the FDA and evidence that the herb can be a great key for those who suffer from these conditions.
But how is the diagnosis made, what are the symptoms of this problem and how does the plant really act to treat epilepsy? We tell you all of this here, in our fifth post in the Medicinal and Therapeutic Cannabis series! Come see more.
Important warning: any possibility of using cannabis as a medicine must be analyzed by a specialist who monitors the history of each patient. This post is not a recommendation for self-medication with cannabis in any way. If you believe it can benefit your condition, talk to your doctor.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a very common neurological condition: according to the World Health Organization, about 1% of the world population suffers from the condition. The disease is characterized by the occurrence of epileptic seizures, which are repeated at varying intervals. These crises are the manifestations of an abnormal electrical discharge from the neurons, which are the cells that make up the brain, and result in the loss of consciousness, with involuntary movements or not.
It can be caused by numerous factors, which vary according to the type of epilepsy and the age of the individual. In children, for example, lack of oxygen to the brain during childbirth and metabolic changes that have existed since birth are frequent causes of epilepsy. In older people, cerebrovascular diseases and brain tumors are among the most frequent causes.
Its symptoms can vary widely:
- In a tonic-clonic crisis, the common seizure, the person may present generalized muscle concussions, sialorrhea (excessive salivation) and, often, bites the tongue and loses urine and feces.
- Other crises may not be recognized by patients, their relatives and even by doctors, as they present subtle manifestations, such as a slight change in behavior, a stare and automatic movements.
- In children, the occurrence of absence crises is common, characterized by a brief stop of the activity that the child was doing, sometimes associated with blinking or automatic hand movements.
The diagnosis of epilepsy is usually made when the same individual has two or more seizures. There are different types of treatment for this: from ketogenic diets, rich in fat, to surgical interventions and anticonvulsant remedies. But one of the most promising options shown in recent times is therapeutic cannabis in its most varied forms.
How cannabis can help with treatment
Guess where the secret is? In our magical endocannabinoid system!
Endocannabinoids (cannabinoids normally synthesized in the central nervous system) play a role in decreasing the release of excitatory neurotransmitters, thus preventing seizures. They act on CB1 and CB2 receptors, the former being expressed by central and peripheral neurons, while the latter are expressed mainly by cells of the immune system, but are also found in brain cells.
The loss of both types of receptors results in a spontaneous and more severe form of seizures – so cannabis can be a big key in this treatment.
There are many studies that support this evidence. In this research, a literature review on the subject was made, which raises several discoveries about the action of cannabinoids in the prevention of seizures. One of the first, in fact, was made in 1978 by Mechoulam and Carlini – Brazilian and pioneer in studies on therapeutic cannabis. In it, four people received a 200mg dose of CBD daily for three months. Two of the individuals had a 100% improvement in the case, while one had a partial improvement and the fourth showed no significant reaction.
In contrast, more recent studies that included more than 100 participants showed that the use of CBD resulted in a significant reduction in the frequency of seizures. The adverse effects of CBD in general appear to be benign, while the most worrisome adverse effects (for example, elevated liver enzymes) improve with continued use of CBD or dose reduction.
There are many cases where therapeutic cannabis works almost a miracle in the patient’s life. One of the people who has seen and can attest to this is Margarete Brito, founder of Apepi (Association of Support to Research and Cannabis Patients). With a young daughter diagnosed with rare syndrome, CBD was the most promising treatment. When sharing the experience with other mothers, she can observe situations in which the seizures, countless per day, reached zero due to the substance.
CBD, oil, tincture or medicine?
There are several types of cannabis-based medication. In the United States, for example, there is Epidiolex – a drug produced by laboratories from the plant, which is already approved by the FDA. But there are also other ways to consume the substance – as in oils and tinctures.
A big question that people have about oil is about the difference between CBD and full spectrum. After all, is it better or worse to consume only the cannabinoid alone?
Cannabis is a plant that has hundreds of assets, including cannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids and others. All of them act synergistically to generate the best possible effects for those who use the plant. What happens when you have full spectrum cannabis is the so-called Entourage Effect: with it, each substance enhances the positive effects of each other, while suppressing the negative ones.
We always believe that a full spectrum medication will be better – but, unfortunately, the stigma attributed to THC for its psychoactive properties still affects society and patients, who end up turning to isolated CBD.
But how to get medication in Brazil?
Whatever the disorder or disorder: when there is a desire to have a treatment with cannabis derivatives in a 100% legal manner, it is necessary to apply for authorization. Since 2015, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) has allowed the import of drugs containing cannabinoids, and you can review the process here in this post.
Those who wish can still understand whether self-cultivation is a valid option for their reality. Here on the blog, we’ve talked a lot about reasons for adopting self-cultivation, and we even cleared up doubts about the topic with the lawyers at Rede Reforma. If this alternative sounds better to you, you can contact a trusted attorney and apply for individual Habeas Corpus to protect yourself under the law.
We also recommend that you seek support from associations in your region, which we have already shown here, and several others! In them, you will find doctors who can prescribe cannabis and experienced people who can help you in all processes.
And cannabis doesn’t just work on humans…
In the United States, in states where cannabis is regulated, there is also a growth both in research and in the development of oils and medicines for our pets! In several different cases, mainly related to age, pets can develop problems and start to have seizures. And therapeutic cannabis has already been shown to be beneficial for improving the disposition, appetite and quality of life of elderly animals, and reducing seizures, if presented.
The power of this little plant in our lives is incredible, whether to treat our own conditions or to give a better quality of life to those we love. It is a fact that prohibitionism is the biggest obstacle today for those who want to get a quick, safe and cheap treatment based on cannabis here in Brazil. And that is why we also recommend that you get to know the associations and contribute as you can with the work of these people who fight for fairer legislation and more democratic access to all these benefits that we always tell you!
Did you have any questions on this subject? Tell us in the comments!
To the next!