Photo by Marcelo Leal

Marijuana’s Promising For Children With Epilepsy, Though Not All

There are few things worse than parents having to helplessly watch their children writhe in pain as they convulse from debilitating seizures. But a team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is leading the way when it comes to researching ways to combat the pain epileptic children endure — along with the heartbreak hundreds of thousands of parents endure daily. And these top researchers report marijuana is an effective tool when it comes to combating the scourge of epilepsy. 

The researchers completed the first-ever meta-analysis studying pediatric use of medical cannabis for severe epilepsy by combing through multiple previous analyses.

Their results hinged upon seven published and unpublished studies with almost 500 patients through May 2020. Led by Hebrew University Ph.D. candidate Nir Treves, the team found an association between CBD and a 50% reduction in seizure rates for patients with Dravet Syndrome and self-reported levels of improvement, the analysis states.

Dravet syndrome is a rare, drug-resistant epilepsy beginning in infancy with lifelong impacts. The Food and Drug Administration has approved three medications, including Epidiolex, a cannabidiol, CBD oral-induced drug, in just the last three years, but there is still not a lot of research in the area.

“CBD was associated with a 50% reduction in seizure rate in patients with Dravet Syndrome.”

the analysis shows

But the results weren’t all positive either. Some patients reported feeling lightheaded, being fatigued or suffering general lethargy.

“This treatment is also associated with events of decreased appetite, which might be a little bit alarming for children,” Treves told The Media Line. “It’s also a little bit surprising because we knew until now is that cannabis [usually] increases the appetite.”

The researchers note the breadth of such studies into the efficacy and safety for medical cannabis to treat epilepsy is scarce and uncertain, but they intend to continue their research.

“There is almost no research,” professor Ilan Matok — who is with Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy and who oversaw the research — told The Media Line. “There are only seven or eight randomized clinical trials on medical cannabis in children. That’s it! The numbers recruited in those are very small so there’s not a lot of data.”

He noted COVID-19 vaccine trials were able to proceed with children but negative stereotypes coupled with the hesitancy of marijuana for medical purposes has hindered research efforts.

While not approving medical cannabis for all patients with epilepsy, the new report builds on the research being conducted globally that’s shedding light on the full potential of medical cannabis. This could be a game changer globally and not just for kids. While approximately 0.6% of all U.S. children have epilepsy — or about 470,000 children — around 50 million people suffer from the disease worldwide. 

Zach Wendling is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He studies political science, journalism and broadcasting. He's currently senior news editor for the campus newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan. He's focused on covering university governance and administrative affairs, among other issues, like COVID-19.

Zach Wendling is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He studies political science, journalism and broadcasting. He's currently senior news editor for the campus newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan. He's focused on covering university governance and administrative affairs, among other issues, like COVID-19.

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