Medical Marijuana (MMJ) for Epilepsy – Our Colorado Springs, CO Doctors Discuss whether Cannabis can Help Epileptic Patients
Can epilepsy patients benefit from medical marijuana? Learn more as our Colorado Springs, CO doctors discuss the links between medical marijuana and epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder. The brains of those suffering from this condition send strange, confusing signals throughout the body. The primary result of these abnormal signals is convulsive, jerking fits known as “seizures.”
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder. That means it will continue affect patients throughout their entire lives. But certain prescriptions or treatments may reduce a patient’s symptoms, allowing them to live a more normal life.
Epilepsy – Causes
There are many different kinds of epileptic disorders. As a result, there’s no single cause to epilepsy. Instead, one or more contributing factor may cause the condition.
Many types of epilepsy have a genetic component. They’re connected to specific genetic mutations, passed down through generations of a patient’s family tree.
Another significant cause of epilepsy is brain injury. Head trauma, either from a single hard impact or repeated low-intensity ones, can lead to seizures. Other brain conditions, like strokes, may also trigger the condition.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
The primary symptoms of epilepsy are seizures. A seizure is the result of “crossed wires” in the patient’s brain. The brain then sends these scrambled signals throughout the body, resulting in a seizure. There are two main types of seizures: focal and generalized.
Focal seizures only affect a single brain region. There are two types:
- Impaired Awareness: the patient may exhibit a vacant stare along with repeated actions. The patient may lose consciousness.
- No Loss of Consciousness: the patient experiences the world in a different way. These seizures alter a patient’s senses, and may also affect their emotions.
In contrast, generalized seizures affect the entire brain at once. There are several unique types of these seizures:
- Tonic: the patient’s muscles stiffen uncontrollably. Usually results in arched back and tightened arms and legs.
- Clonic: the patient performs repetitive sudden motions. Patients may jerk and spasm uncontrollably.
- Tonic-Clonic: patients lose consciousness while their muscles become rigid and twitch. They may also bite their tongues or urinate. Previously known as “grand mal seizures.”
- Absence: patients stare off into space vacantly. They may display slight, repetitive tics.
- Atonic: patients suddenly drop or fall to the ground. Also known as “drop seizures.”
- Myoclonic: patients lose control of their arms and legs. These are usually sudden episodes and may last for a short time.
Medical Marijuana (MMJ) and Epilepsy
There are several purported medical benefits of cannabis. For example, some research exists linking medical marijuana to benefits like reduced pain.
Some countries, like Canada, have even approved weed as a treatment for multiple maladies. But American scientists need more research before they can conclusively determine marijuana’s medical benefits.
Except for medical marijuana’s ability to treat epilepsy, that is.
Recognized Medical Benefits of Medical Marijuana (MMJ) for Epilepsy
In 2018, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the pharmaceutical made from cannabis in American history. Dubbed Epidiolex, the drug relies on CBD to treat two forms of extreme epilepsy.
The first, called Dravet Syndrome (DS) is a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy. Symptoms include eight different types of seizures. Some can even last 5 minutes or more. The lifelong condition is also particularly resistant to drug treatments. In fact, Epidiolex is one of the only treatments for Dravet Syndrome.
The second, called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), is more common than Dravet Syndrome. It affects between 2 and 5 percent of epilepsy patients. It’s also mysterious. Doctors fail to discover any reason for Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome in 25 percent of patients. It usually strikes early in life and causes multiple types of seizures. Like Dravet Syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome doesn’t respond to many anti-seizure medications.
It was a huge moment. Not only had the US healthcare system recognized medical marijuana for the first time, but hundreds of thousands of patients could find potential relief.
But before there was Epidiolex, there was Charlotte Figi.
The Charlotte’s Web Strain and Epilepsy
One patient who helped raise awareness around medical marijuana and epilepsy was Charlotte Figi. Charlotte was a child living in Colorado who developed Dravet Syndrome at 3 months old. By the time she was 5 years old, Charlotte experienced almost 50 seizures every day. She couldn’t walk and had trouble speaking because of her epilepsy.
In 2012, Charlotte’s mother was willing to try anything. That’s when she heard about the benefits of medical marijuana. She began treating Charlotte with medical marijuana – along with drugs prescribed by doctors – under the guidance of growers in the Colorado Springs, CO area.
The effect on Charlotte’s epilepsy was stunning. Charlotte’s 50 seizures per day fell to just 3 per week. She learned to walk without her wheelchair, and her speech improved.
Over 20 months, Charlotte’s parents and caregivers weaned her off of her prescription drugs. Instead, medical marijuana became Charlotte’s sole tool for epilepsy control.
Eventually, the growers who developed Charlotte’s strain named it after her. Thus, Charlotte’s Web was born. Charlotte embarked on a media tour, appearing on CNN. She helped bring medical marijuana into the public eye, even before the FDA approved Epidiolex.
Charlotte Figi died in 2020, possibly of coronavirus complications. But her legacy continues today as a pioneer in the medical marijuana field.
Can I Use Medical Marijuana (MMJ) for Epilepsy?
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post. But one question remains: can you use medical marijuana for epilepsy?
The simple answer is “maybe.” Sure, there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that suggests cannabis may be an effective epilepsy treatment. But the US FDA has only approved a drug derived from cannabis to treat two specific types of the disorder.
To determine whether cannabis may be an option for your treatment, you need professional advice. At Medical Alternatives Clinics, we make it easy to connect with medical marijuana doctors in the Colorado Springs, CO area to talk about your epilepsy options. We even offer telehealth appointments.
Don’t let epilepsy rule your life. Contact Medical Alternatives Clinics today to schedule an appointment and take control of your health.