Medical cannabis is a topic imbued with hope, skepticism, curiosity, and deep-rooted experiences. The narrative surrounding it is layered, multidimensional, and constantly evolving, as are the medical cannabis perspectives from the medical establishment. While there are stories of transformation and relief, there’s also a cloud of doubt and myths that hinder its complete acceptance. Here, we aim to present a panoramic view, blending experiences from different individuals, supported by hard facts and medical studies.
In 2018, a legislative milestone took place in the UK when medical cannabis was made legal. This decision, seemingly monumental, was grounded in the belief that countless patients suffering from varied ailments could finally find respite. Carly Ashton, a distressed mother, hoped for an NHS prescription for her daughter, Esme, who had a rare epilepsy form. Yet, despite the legislation, Esme’s relief remains a distant dream1.
For an experienced cannabis consumer like Hannah Deacon, medical cannabis was nothing short of a miracle. Her son, Alfie, was the first to receive an NHS prescription for medical cannabis1. The journey from seizures to stability was marked with moments of sheer despair and soaring hope. Alfie’s story is a testament to the potential of medical cannabis.
But what about those unfamiliar with the world of medical cannabis? Like Jasper, another child suffering from a rare epilepsy form. His journey, from 800 seizures a day to a few every couple of days, is astonishing. His parents describe the effect of whole-cannabis oil as “jaw-dropping”1. For them, this wasn’t just another medication; it was the difference between life and heartbreaking loss.
On the other hand, the perspective of a skeptic or uninformed individual might focus on the THC component of cannabis, the compound responsible for the ‘high’ feeling. Some might argue, as some doctors have, about the lack of robust evidence supporting the drug’s safety and benefits1.
From a healthcare provider’s perspective, the benefits of cannabis seem promising. Yet, the uncertainty about its long-term effects and the complex chemical nature of the plant makes it a challenging field. Furthermore, many doctors are caught in a dilemma, torn between the potential benefits and the lack of empirical evidence.
Clinical Perspective on Cannabis for Treating Epilepsy
In clinical settings, one of the most intriguing areas of research has been the potential use of cannabis-based treatments for epilepsy. While traditional antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) can be effective for many patients, there remains a subset for whom these medications either do not provide adequate seizure control or come with challenging side effects.
Given this, the search for alternative treatments is crucial. Recent research has shed light on the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids, especially cannabidiol (CBD), in epilepsy management. Preliminary findings suggest that CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, might play a role in reducing seizure frequency and severity in some individuals. Furthermore, for those with treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy, the introduction of CBD-based treatments has been particularly promising.
It’s crucial to acknowledge, however, that while the potential is promising, the use of cannabis for epilepsy is not without its challenges. Determining optimal dosing, understanding long-term effects, and addressing potential interactions with other medications are all areas in need of further study. Moreover, while anecdotal evidence abounds, rigorous, controlled trials are essential to establish the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based treatments for epilepsy.
For clinicians and patients alike, the evolving landscape of medical cannabis for epilepsy presents both opportunities and challenges. As research continues and our understanding deepens, it’s essential to approach this potential treatment option with both optimism and caution, ensuring that decisions are rooted in the best available scientific evidence.
Medical cannabis, as with many other treatments, isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But its potential is undeniable. Whether you’re an advocate, skeptic, newcomer, or experienced user, the conversation around medical cannabis is essential. While the journey towards complete acceptance might be long, stories like Alfie’s and Jasper’s light the path.
- Devinsky, O., Marsh, E., Friedman, D., Thiele, E., Laux, L., Sullivan, J., … & Cilio, M. R. (2016). Cannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial. The Lancet Neurology, 15(3), 270-278.
- This trial investigates the efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) in treating patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy, showing positive results for a subset of patients.
- Stockings, E., Zagic, D., Campbell, G., Weier, M., Hall, W. D., Nielsen, S., … & Degenhardt, L. (2018). Evidence for cannabis and cannabinoids for epilepsy: a systematic review of controlled and observational evidence. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 89(7), 741-753.
- A comprehensive review that presents both controlled and observational evidence on the therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids in treating epilepsy.
- Mechoulam, R., & Parker, L. A. (2013). The endocannabinoid system and the brain. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 21-47.
- This review offers insights into how the endocannabinoid system interacts with the brain and potential therapeutic applications, including in epilepsy and other neurologic conditions.
- O’Connell, B. K., Gloss, D., & Devinsky, O. (2017). Cannabinoids in treatment-resistant epilepsy: A review. Epilepsy & Behavior, 70, 341-348.
- A thorough review of the role of cannabinoids in treating cases of epilepsy that are resistant to traditional treatments, highlighting potential benefits and challenges.
- Perucca, E. (2017). Cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy: Hard evidence at last? Journal of Epilepsy Research, 7(2), 61-76.
- This article discusses the solid evidence emerging regarding the use of cannabinoids in epilepsy treatment, emphasizing the need for more clinical trials and understanding of its mechanisms.