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Marijuana Extract Cuts Seizures In Uncommon Epilepsy

First Posted: May 25, 2017 05:22 AM EDT
Medical Marijuana
The leaf of a marijuana plant is seen under a grow light at Oaksterdam University.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Marijuana has medicinal purposes -- the latest of which is an oil derived of the plant. Studies showed that extract from the cannabis plant can reduce violent seizures in young people who are suffering from a rare, severe form of epilepsy.

According to The Washington Post, Cannabidiol (CBD) can cut the median number of convulsive seizures in children with Dravet syndrome. The 52 children in the study took the medication over a 14-week period and results showed the drug cutting the median number of seizures from 12.4 to 5.9.

The research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also said that the 56 children who used placebo medicine had a drop in the number of seizures from a median of 14.9 to 14.1 per month. Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and lead author of the research, said that medical marijuana had been documented as an epilepsy treatment going back thousands of years. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) though, Cannabidiol is not psychoactive, but there are still some side effects for children under 10 years old (the age of those in the study). These include vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.

CNN reported that the product, however, is not available anywhere in the world yet, except for the 1,500 children who are receiving it from manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals and only under the compassionate-use rules for the condition. Dravet syndrome is said to cause ongoing seizures, cognitive problems and even the risk of early death.

Devinsky also added, "CBD is an effective drug for this type of rare epilepsy but was not a panacea (or cure-all) for these children." Existing epilepsy medications are also noted to be ineffective for children with Dravet syndrome. Because epilepsy is a spectrum disorder, different syndromes are defined by different clusters of symptoms and thus have to be treated accordingly.

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