A new study determined that cannabidiol, a medical marijuana extract, could potentially help those suffering from Dravet syndrome, a very rare and dangerous type of epilepsy.
There is no available treatment for Dravet at the moment which can completely control its seizures. Caused by a genetic mutation, this rare and complex form of childhood epilepsy causes multiple and prolonged seizures. These can lead to other health problems, such as brain damage.
This new study involved 120 children and young adults, all suffering from Dravet and aged in between 2 to 18 years old. They were randomly assigned into two groups. One of them received placebos and the other a cannabidiol treatment. This was administered according to their weight, the kids receiving 20 milligrams per body kilogram on a daily basis.
Cannabidiol and Its Beneficial Effects
The study used Epidiolex, a 99% cannabidiol preparation, produced by GW Pharmaceuticals who also funded the study. At the end of the three-months trial, the research team analyzed its results.
They compared seizure rates from before the treatments to those after its end. On average, the members of the group to receive cannabidiol had 12 seizures per month. After having received this treatment, this value was cut to around half.
Participants in this group did show a series of side effects as well. These included fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea, among others. Still, the study team considers that these adverse reactions were “mild” and they could probably be prevented thanks to a dose adjustment.
“The big question now is whether this drug is also effective for a larger group of people with epilepsy who don’t have these rare syndromes,” stated Dr. Orrin Devinsky.
He is a study co-leader and the director of the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. Dr. Devinsky stressed the importance of such trials. Cannabidiol or CBD is one of the many extracts that can be found in marijuana. Still, unlike the perhaps more famous THC, it is not a psychoactive element. Namely, it does not generate a “high” sensation.
Usually, cannabidiol is administered in an oil form. Its beneficial effects are associated with its possible interaction with the receptors on nerve cells.
According to the study results, seizures frequency in the CBD-treated group dropped by 39 percent. The group to receive placebos showed a reduction of its own, of 13 percent or a drop from a median 15 to 14 seizures a month.
Some 5 percent of the kids in the CBD group were also “completely seizure free” during the trial period. Study results are available in a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine.
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