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Medical Cannabis Oil For Epilepsy: Can It Work For You?

14 March 2023

Key Points:

  • There is significant evidence that medical cannabis can be effective in treating epilepsy. Studies have shown that cannabis can help to reduce seizure frequency and severity, and Epidiolex is already on the market as a medical cannabis for epilepsy.
  • You can get medical cannabis for epilepsy in the UK, but you need a prescription from a registered doctor. However, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome are the only two types of epilepsy for which doctors can prescribe medical cannabis.
  • You can go to a private clinic if you want to get medical cannabis for epilepsy in the UK but can’t get it on the NHS. Private clinics can prescribe CBD oil for epilepsy and other conditions not covered by the NHS.

If you or a loved one have epilepsy, then you know that the struggle is real. Epilepsy can be debilitating, and traditional treatments don’t always work. You may then be wondering what other methods are available to you.

One treatment option that is gaining popularity is medical cannabis. Medical cannabis oil is a natural remedy that has shown promise in treating various medical conditions. However, although evidence for the medicinal properties of cannabis has existed for centuries, it remains challenging to obtain.

In this article, we’ll look at epilepsy and what mainstream treatment methods doctors are currently offering. Then, we’ll look at medical cannabis for epilepsy and the research that shows it may be a viable option for many patients. Finally, we’ll let you know whether you can get medical cannabis for epilepsy in the UK. Let’s jump in!

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes repeated seizures. A seizure is a sudden change in behaviour or consciousness, which can last for a few seconds or minutes. There is no cure for epilepsy, but patients can manage the condition with medication and other treatments.

The symptoms of epilepsy can vary depending on the person. Some people may experience only mild seizures, while others may have more severe ones that can cause blackouts or convulsions. Epilepsy can be debilitating, making it difficult to live everyday life.

Some of the common symptoms of epilepsy include:

  • Seizures
  • Blackouts
  • Convulsions
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

The cause of epileptic seizures is a sudden and abnormally high burst of electrical activity in the brain. In most cases, it’s unknown why this happens, yet there may be various underlying causes, such as:

  • Infections such as meningitis
  • Tumours
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury

Genetic factors can also cause epilepsy. If you have a family member with epilepsy, you may be more likely to develop the condition yourself.

  • Epilepsy affects approximately 600,000 people in the UK.
  • There are at least 40 different seizure types, and people may have one or several.
  • The total number of children aged four years and under with epilepsy is approximately 1 in 509.
  • The number of children and young people aged 18 years and under with epilepsy is near 1 in 220.

These statistics show that epilepsy is not uncommon, yet there is still a lack of understanding about the condition.

Types of Seizures

Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy. There are many different types of seizures, varying in severity. Some may only last for a few seconds, while others can last for minutes.

Some of the different types of seizures include:

Simple partial (focal) seizures: These seizures only affect a small part of the brain. The person may experience muscle twitching, tingling, or vision changes. They usually remain aware during the attack and can often describe what’s happening to them.

Complex partial (focal) seizures: These seizures also only affect a small part of the brain. However, the person may lose consciousness and be unresponsive during the episode. They may also make repetitive movements, such as chewing or rubbing their hands.

Clonic seizures: These seizures cause muscle jerks and spasms. They can affect the whole body or just one side.

Tonic seizures: These seizures cause the muscles to stiffen. They can affect the whole body or just one side.

Tonic-clonic seizures: These are the most common type of seizure, and they involve both muscle rigidity and jerking movements.

Absence seizures: These are often called petit mal seizures, and they cause a brief loss of consciousness. They may also cause staring, lip-smacking, or blinking.

Atonic seizures: Also called drop attacks, Atonic seizures cause a sudden loss of muscle tone that can result in falling.

Myoclonic seizures: These involve brief muscle jerks or twitches.

While seizures can seemingly be at random for some patients, other people have distinct triggers. Some of these common triggers can include:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Flashing lights

If you have epilepsy, it’s important to avoid these triggers if possible.

Mainstream Treatment Methods For Epilepsy

The goal of epilepsy treatment is to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Some people with epilepsy may only require medication. In contrast, others may need a combination of medication and other treatments such as surgery or lifestyle changes. 

Here are some of the most common mainstream treatment methods for epilepsy:

Anti-seizure medications (ASMs): These are the most common type of medication used to treat epilepsy. They work by reducing the electrical activity in the brain that can lead to seizures. There are many types of ASMs, and finding the right one for you may require trial and error.

Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be an option to treat epilepsy. This can involve removing the area of the brain causing the seizures or implanting a device that will stimulate the brain and prevent attacks.

Lifestyle changes: Making specific lifestyle changes can often help to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. These changes can include getting enough sleep, avoiding triggers, and eating a healthy diet, such as the ketogenic diet. Studies have shown that this high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can help some people with epilepsy.

What Is Medical Cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant that contains many different compounds, including THC and CBD. THC is the compound that gives cannabis its psychoactive properties, while CBD is a non-psychoactive compound with medicinal properties.

Medical cannabis is cannabis that patients use to treat a medical condition. It can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve seizure control. This form of cannabis differs from street cannabis as it is specifically grown to be high in THC or CBD. Medical cannabis is also free from other harmful chemicals with which street dealers often lace their product.

Medical cannabis is available in various forms but is only available in the UK as an oil taken under the tongue or a flower that you vape.

You can use medical cannabis to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines

Medical cannabis is legal in many countries worldwide, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In some countries, medical cannabis is only available for specific conditions. In others, it may be available for any medical condition.

Medical Benefits of Cannabis for Epilepsy: The Research

A growing body of evidence suggests that medical cannabis can effectively treat epilepsy.

The first promising evidence for CBD’s efficacy emerged in 2016 with several clinical trials of a nearly pure formulation of CBD at the University of Reading. These trials were for Epidiolex, created by the UK company GWPharma, which contains less than 0.1% THC. These trials were mainly carried out with children with two severe forms of paediatric epilepsy: Dravet’s syndrome and Lennox Gastaut Syndrome. The subjects were all taking other anti-epileptic medications at the same time and had at least eight disabling motor seizures each month.

Meanwhile, a 2018 study by the University of Alabama showed evidence that patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy experienced significantly decreased seizure frequency when using CBD oil. There were also other improvements thanks to medical cannabis for epilepsy.

Published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior, the study consisted of 132 patients with intractable epilepsy that didn’t respond to initial treatments. Visits at 12, 24, and 48 weeks showed a decreased seizure frequency. On average, 144 seizures occurred every two weeks before the start of the study, compared to only 52 seizures every two weeks after twelve weeks. Those running the trial maintained this reduction until the end of the 48 weeks.

In 2021, research undertaken by pharmacologists at the University of Sydney provided new insight into how medical cannabis for epilepsy might work. Published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, the study revealed that three acidic cannabinoids found in cannabis reduced seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome.

Acidic cannabinoids are cannabinoids that are biosynthesized in the plant, and you can find them in artisanal cannabis extracts. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), one of these cannabinoids, is known as the “mother of all cannabinoids.” This is because it is the precursor to creating better-known cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“From the early nineteenth century, cannabis extracts were used in Western medicine to treat seizures, but cannabis prohibition got in the way of advancing the science,” said Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and the Sydney Pharmacy School. “Now we are able to explore how the compounds in this plant can be adapted for modern therapeutic treatments.”

In summary

There is significant evidence to suggest that medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for epilepsy, with various studies showing reductions in seizure frequency. Epidiolex is already on the market as a medical cannabis remedy for epilepsy, and more research is underway to explore the potential of acidic cannabinoids in treating seizures.

While more research is needed to fully understand how medical cannabis works to treat epilepsy and which formulations are most effective, the usage of medical cannabis oil for epilepsy is becoming more widely recognized.

Is it Safe To Use Medical Cannabis?

Experts generally consider medical cannabis to be safe. However, like any medication, there are potential side effects and risks. Short-term side-effects of medical cannabis for epilepsy include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Impaired motor skills

Over the long-term, there is some evidence that medical cannabis may increase the risk of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dependence
  • Cognitive impairment

However, readers should note that there is often a misconception that the usage of cannabis can cause schizophrenia. This is not scientifically proven, yet the association persists. However, you should still use cannabis with caution if you have a history of mental health problems.

Equally, even if you have no such history, you should still talk to your doctor about potential risks before considering medical cannabis for epilepsy. This is something we will be delighted to help with here at Lyphe.

Can You Get Medical Cannabis for Epilepsy in the UK?

Medical cannabis for epilepsy in the UK is difficult to obtain but not impossible. There are currently two paths available depending on your condition: The NHS and private clinics.

The NHS Method

As of November 1st, 2018, medical cannabis is legal in the UK. However, to get medical cannabis for epilepsy, you must obtain a prescription from a doctor or healthcare professional registered with the General Medical Council. 

A GP alone cannot prescribe medical cannabis for epilepsy or other disorders. Instead, they must refer you to a specialist who will only give prescriptions for medical cannabis to patients with certain conditions that have not responded to other treatments. These are:

  • Severe epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Adults undergoing chemotherapy
  • Chronic pain

Doctors will treat each patient on a case-by-case basis and only prescribe medical cannabis if they believe it is in the patient’s best interest. Two other forms of treatment must have failed in the past. 

Regarding epilepsy, medical cannabis is available to children and adults with Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These are rare and severe forms of epilepsy that typically begin in childhood. The conditions feature frequent seizures and are often resistant to medication.

If you or your child has Dravet Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and would like to explore the option of medical cannabis for epilepsy, the NHS may be an option for you. However, unless you have either of these particular types, you may struggle to get medical cannabis for epilepsy.

The Private Clinic Method

The alternative might be utilizing a private clinic. Private practices can prescribe medical cannabis oil for epilepsy and other conditions that remain restricted on the NHS. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Depression
  • HIV and AIDs
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Seizures

The first step in getting medical cannabis oil for epilepsy through a private clinic is to book an appointment with a qualified doctor. They will assess your condition and determine whether or not medical cannabis is the proper treatment for you. If they believe it is, they will write you a prescription for medical cannabis oil.

Once you have your prescription, you can purchase medical cannabis oil from a licensed dispensary or online retailer. Make sure to buy from a reputable source, and always check the labelling to ensure you get a high-quality product.

You can carry out this process here with us at Lyphe.

Introducing Lyphe

Here at Lyphe, we specialize in top-quality medical cannabis treatment. Our clinic is home to some of the country’s most experienced specialist doctors, who treat patients with care and safety. They will help you find a treatment plan that works for your circumstances with additional support and adjustments.

Our staff are eager to inform the public about how medical cannabis may improve mental health and offer pain management solutions. As such, we provide various services, including medical consultations, cannabis oil prescriptions, and guidance on using medical cannabis.

If you are interested in learning more about medical cannabis for epilepsy, please get in touch with us today. We would be happy to answer any questions and help you get the treatment you need.

Conclusion

Medical cannabis for epilepsy is a viable treatment option for patients with epilepsy. If you have Dravet Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, treatment may be available on the NHS. However, if you suffer from any other form of epilepsy, you may only be able to access medical cannabis oil for epilepsy through a private clinic. The first step is to book an appointment with one of our experienced specialist doctors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which cannabis strain is best for epilepsy?

The research featured in this article and other studies not featured suggest that high CBD products are the most effective for treating seizures. However, this does not mean that THC-dominant products are not effective. Our experts here at Lyphe can offer advice.

How should I use medical cannabis oil for epilepsy?

CBD oil is the most common form of medical cannabis for epilepsy. You can take it orally via drops placed under the tongue or add it to food or drinks. Your doctor can advise you on the best method of taking medical cannabis oil for epilepsy, depending on your circumstances.

Author: Alex
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Alex Frost, Marketing Manager at Lyphe Group, brings a diverse and creative background to his role. Prior to joining Lyphe, he spent five years as a freelance illustrator, where he not only honed his artistic and conceptual skills but also demonstrated his prowess in digital marketing. This hands-on experience provided him with valuable insights and a deep understanding of the intricacies of digital marketing and social media algorithms. Alex's marketing journey kicked off at The Sports Trust, where he managed large-scale events and marketing. At Lyphe Group, Alex applies this wealth of diverse experience to innovate and shape the narrative in cannabis marketing. His blend of artistic creativity, digital marketing acumen, and a literary foundation make him a dynamic force in the ever-evolving landscape of cannabis branding and promotion.

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