Epilepsy Talk

The Great Debate — Medical Marijuana | October 9, 2018

Even though the cannabis plant has a long history of medicinal use, with evidence dating back to 2,737 BCE, it’s still a subject of hot controversy.

It appears to be a standing battle between politics and science.

The legality requires proof of medical marijuana’s effectiveness.

Reports of success are anecdotal.

Yet there are no funds for clinical trials and it remains on a back burner for further NIH funding and research.

(Wow. What a surprise!)

Dr. Ben Whalley, who is leading the research at the department of pharmacy at the University of Reading, said: “There was a stigma associated with cannabis that came out from the 60’s and 70’s associated with recreational use, so people have tended not to look at it medicinally as a result.”

But now, some experts are calling for fresh research into the potential of cannabis-like compounds to help alleviate seizures.

Because further evidence has emerged that an ingredient of cannabis could help prevent epileptic seizures.

Marijuana contains numerous cannabinoid compounds that differ in convulsing and anticonvulsant properties.

Anticonvulsant properties were first noted in the 15th century, yet studies in humans remain slow…to none at all.

The same brain machinery that responds to the active substance in marijuana provides a central “on-demand” protection against seizures, researchers have found.

They said their discoveries suggest that the “endocannabinoid” system might constitute a prime target for drugs against seizures of epilepsy and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The endocannabinoid system – which includes the receptors, the natural cannabinoid compounds that trigger them, as well as the machinery for regulating the process – was already known to modulate the excitation of neuronal transmission, noted researchers. 

However, it had not been established that such modulation might affect neurons in the hippocampus responsible for the “excitotoxicity” that underlies the uncontrolled activity of seizures.

Dr. Whalley, said tests in animals had shown the compounds effective at preventing seizures and convulsions while also having less side effects than existing epilepsy drugs.

These compounds are very well tolerated and you are not seeing the same kind of side effects that you get with the existing treatments.

The scientists, whose latest findings on the compounds are published in the scientific journal “Seizure”, believe the compounds work by interfering with the sudden bursts of electrical activity that signal the brain to become hyper-excitable, leading to epileptic seizures.

“Cannabis is thought of being a treasure trove of compounds that could be used for pharmacological development.

We have a list of around a dozen potential candidates for epilepsy and have tested three that show promise.” – Ben Walley, MD

“Twenty-one percent of subjects had used marijuana in the past year with the majority of active users reporting beneficial effects on seizures, according to a survey published in the journal “Neurology.”

“Despite limited evidence of efficacy, many patients with epilepsy believe marijuana is an effective therapy for epilepsy and are actively using it.” – Donald Gross, MD

Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions.

They cite dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.

Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is too dangerous to use, lacks FDA-approval, and that various legal drugs make marijuana use unnecessary.

They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain.

And that medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.

“Individuals both here and abroad report that marijuana has been therapeutic for them in the treatment of a variety of ailments, including epilepsy.

But the psychoactive side effects of marijuana make its use impractical in the treatment of epilepsy.

If we can understand how marijuana works to end seizures, we may be able to develop novel drugs that might do a better job of treating epileptic seizures.” Robert DeLorenzo, MD, PhD, MPH

Despite that, marijuana is becoming more and more increasingly popular for medicinal use.

Medical marijuana has even been called by some researchers as the “21st Century’s Miracle Drug.”

There are many reasons why people may prefer using marijuana instead of prescription drugs for epileptic seizures including cost, side effects, and better results.

Marijuana patients report reduction in headaches as well as reduction in seizures when using cannabis instead of conventional medication.

Many investigating physicians also state that the use of medicinal marijuana along with prescription barbiturates can completely control epilepsy, with no symptoms at all.

Cannabis analogues have been shown to prevent seizures when given in combination with prescription drugs.

Patients report that they can wean themselves off prescription drugs, and still not experience seizures, if they have a regular supply of cannabis.

However, the effect that marijuana has on antiepileptic medication blood levels is largely unknown.

Many legal and illegal ingested substances can alter levels of antiepileptic medications, leading to increases seizures or toxic side effects.

Use of marijuana can negatively affect memory (which is also a well-known side effect of many antiepileptic drugs), that in turn can lead to missed medication doses and result in an increased risk of seizures.

Meanwhile, the FDA has approved Marinol, a prescription drug which contains synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

But Marinol lacks cannabidiol (CBD), which is the element that has been found to have anti-seizure effects.

And you can guess the punch line.

Marijuana itself is the only source of cannabidiol (CBD) and the other cannabinoids that help control seizures.

So for those of us who have epilepsy, Marinol may be a moot point.

Obviously more data is needed, animal studies and clinical experience suggest that marijuana or its active constituents may have a place in the treatment of partial epilepsy.

Anecdotal data suggests that marijuana use may be a beneficial adjunctive treatment in some patients with epilepsy.

Here’s what some people have to say:

“To Whom It May Concern:

I was trapped, prevented from seeing my friends and family.

Recollections of masks of blood, five failed brain surgeries, countless drugs, and thousands of seizures, imprisoned me in Colorado, away from my loved ones residing in my home state of New Jersey.

Discovery of a curing anti-epileptic was bleak, as hope began to fade.

Then, after 11 years, I began utilizing my sole effective treatment – the medicinal use of marijuana, as a state-registered medical marijuana patient.

There was only one problem that remained, I couldn’t return home to share my remedied state of health with my family.

Acknowledging that an abrupt abandonment of the drug would provoke seizures, and aware of the fact that marijuana was illegal in New Jersey, I was barred from visitation.

Until now, when I have been presented the opportunity to safely return home under New Jersey’s recently enacted medical marijuana legislation.

A current senior at Colorado State University, I am at last able to spend time with my loved ones healthy.”

Kind regards,

Tim DaGiau

“I had my first seizure at 15.

The older I got, the more often the grand mal seizures would occur.

After having an automobile accident because of seizing, I aggressively sought an answer for this problem.

There was no answer, just experiments.

My physicians put me on so much medication, the whites of my eyes were yellow because they were destroying my liver.

I was also experiencing kidney problems for the first time in my life. Even after being medicated, I was still having seizures.

At that point I decided to stop relying on traditional medication. I have been smoking cannabis for almost three years without having one seizure.

My eyes are now clear and I am no longer suffering from all the side affects of the pharmaceuticals. My quality of life has improved 100 per cent” — Ann

“Marijuana use appeared to be a protective factor against first seizures in men. […]

Marijuana contains numerous cannabinoid compounds that differ in convulsant and anticonvulsant properties.

 Anticonvulsant properties were first noted in the 15th century, yet studies in humans have been few. […]

The authors conclude that heroin use is a risk factor and marijuana use a protective factor for new-onset seizures.” — John C. M. Brust

“I have found in my study of these patients that cannabis is really a safe, effective and non-toxic alternative to many standard medications.

There is no such thing as an overdose.

We have seen very minimal problems with abuse or dependence, which at worst are equivalent to dependence on caffeine.

While a substance may have some potential for misuse, in my opinion, that’s a poor excuse to deny its use and benefit to everyone else.”  Philip Denney, MD

“I want to go one step further, because this whole issue of drugs in our society is misplaced.

Drugs have infected the society, but I think we need to look at it more as a medical and a health issue than as a criminal justice issue.”  Dennis Kucinich

What do YOU think of medical marijuana?

Other articles of interest:

AMA Still Against Legalizing Pothttp://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AMA/43043?xid=nl_mpt_guptaguide_2013-11-20&utm_source=guptaguide&utm_medium=email&utm_content=mpt&utm_campaign=11|20|2013&userid=678261&eun=g5845718d10r&email=pfj@pfjohnson.com&mu_id=5845718

FDA Approves Marijuana-Based Epilepsy Drug For Use On Kids In Clinical Trials http://www.medicaldaily.com/fda-approves-marijuana-based-epilepsy-drug-use-kids-clinical-trials-261998

For states that allow medical marijuana see:http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881

BREAKING: FDA Approves Trials for Cannabis-Based Epilepsy Medicine http://thejointblog.com/breaking-fda-approves-trials-cannabis-based-epilepsy-medicine/

CBD Trials for Epilepsy Get the Green Light From FDAhttp://epilepsyu.com/blog/cbd-trials-epilepsy-get-green-light-fda/

Are the Benefits of Medical Marijuana Being Completely Overlooked? http://www.wakingtimes.com/2012/04/30/are-the-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-being-completely-overlooked/

Cannabis anti-convulsant shakes up epilepsy treatmenthttp://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22263-cannabis-anticonvulsant-shakes-up-epilepsy-treatment.html

Cannabis Helping Children with Severe Epilepsyhttp://www.wakingtimes.com/2012/07/17/cannabis-helping-children-severe-epilepsy/

Will U.S. Try To Snuff Out State Marijuana Laws?http://www.npr.org/2012/11/20/165504727/will-u-s-try-to-snuff-out-state-marijuana-laws?ft=1&f=1001

Fake Pot Is A Real Problem For Regulatorshttp://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156615024/fake-pot-is-a-real-problem-for-regulators?ft=1&f=100

When Your State Says Yes To Medical Marijuana, But Your Insurer Says Nohttp://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/20/165554172/when-your-state-says-yes-to-medical-marijuana-but-your-insurer-says-no?ft=1&f=1001

Legalizing of Marijuana Raises Health Concernshttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/legalizing-of-marijuana-raises-health-concerns/?nl=health&emc=edit_hh_20130108


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  1. Add the pharma industry to the politics-science axis. They cannot make money from it as no patent would be possible and the stuff is already pretty cheap.

    Seizure drugs are cleared through FDA for market based on ability to significantly decrease seizures, not because they eliminate them. The notes about ‘conflicting results’ and ‘no controlled trials’ should be reconsidered as well. We all have conflicting results from the drugs we take, and when did you see the data on those drugs?

    We are all stuffed to the gills with AEDs and all of us know we will still have seizures. If, like the pharma AEDs, cannabidiol reduces seizure incidence, then for crissake order some.

    The THC version did not rip a hole in the universe in the 1960s and 70s, and the non-THC oil extract will not do so now. No, the Dr cannot prescribe it; and no, the insurance company will not cover it. Sometimes you have to decide for yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kate Jacques — October 9, 2018 @ 10:43 AM

    • The doctor can actually prescribe it, but you can’t it it from HIM!

      You must first go to a dispensary, where they grill you before giving you the marijuana.

      As for the FDA, they are already working on their own medical marijuana WITHOUT THC.

      Big deal.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 9, 2018 @ 11:03 AM

  2. Yes, MONEY can move mountains and make a good drug look like it’s not so good. But then science can prove the truth, but since there is no money in proving it, the proof remain in the average user, like me or others. Yes, i am a user and this message may be bios towards the drug.

    The first time i used it, it gave me a bad experience, one of which i laughed for a 1/2 hr as well as the others that were using it. But afterwards i sleep for hrs during the middle of the day. Over all i did not like that first experience. So many years went by and eventually moved by a friend that used it all the time and it seemed not to affect him negatively as the propaganda against it had suggested. So yes, i used it on and off here and there.

    After having a grand mal on the highway 8 yrs ago, i went and got medically approved for medical cannabis in CA. Ever since i’ve been using regularly and i feel like has affected my seizures, do i have proof, no, but non the less the happiness it brings me outweigh the negatives. Yes, there are negatives, like it makes one less physically motivated. But that can be overcome with the right encouragement. Motivations, such as, if you don’t go to work you won’t have money to eat. That’s good motivations. On the opposite side, it can bring a sense of ease, non worry, happiness, and best of all, mental thought processes go up, or it makes one feel like it goes up.

    The problem of course, is money, why would people buy it if they can grow it, after all it’s just a weed. And the money it creates for policing such drug is tremendous, the need for more cops/jails/judges costs are incredible. Once greedy government gets it’s hands on something they can make money on, they won’t let their grubby hands off of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Zolt — October 9, 2018 @ 11:54 AM

  3. What I’m finding somewhat “amusing” (for want of a better word) from the holier- than- thou -moralists-anti-brigade-just- on- principle is how medical CBD somehow has all these terrible side effects, the same ones that happen when you smoke a joint. naturally they refuse to educate themselves on the difference between the two.

    One of the side effect cards they play is cannabis use causes psychosis. Unfortunately, yes, the THC CAN trigger it in SOME people who are predisposed with heavy use- I’ve seen it happen and it’s why I’ve never smoked a joint.

    But look at a list of the side effects of Topamax- amongst them, psychosis. And I experienced that when starting the drug. And don’t get me started on all the other side effects.Totally legal, FDA approved, been through all the testing, only variable in the equation I can see is big pharma.

    In fact, these politicians and anti-medical CBDers should take a look at the side effect lists of all the painkillers, AEDs, other neuro drugs etc and ask them if they would be agreeable to experiencing those. Also be sure to point out the drugs prescribe to TREAT the psychosis, clozapine especially, which even has sudden death listed as a side effect!!

    Where I live I don’t yet have to opportunity to try CBD but hopefully it’s coming. But from what I’ve picked up I don’t think it’s a wonder drug for all seizure types and I don’t think it’ll be much use for me and I’m ok with that. But there’s definitely people it does help and I’m getting really sick of the politicking around it. If anything, it’s LESS of a drug than this legal stuff we’re throwing down our throats twice a day every day forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Katie — October 9, 2018 @ 4:28 PM

    • Agreed. And I love the wisdom of your comments.

      Loads of AEDs list psychosis as one of the possible side effects.

      Anyone for a little Keppra? 🙂


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 9, 2018 @ 5:52 PM

  4. Reblogged this on catsissie.


    Comment by catsissie — October 9, 2018 @ 10:48 PM

  5. Human race has been pacticing traditional medicine since biblical times, before the modern day politicians & pharmaceutical industry set out to do business in the name of “healthcare”.

    Therefore, what makes medicinal marijuana any different than all the traditional medicines human race has been depending on for curing medical conditions since eternity?

    While I never had the opportunity to try & find out the potential advantages or disadvantages, benefits or side effects of medicinal marijuana in curing my seizures, it’s mind boggling to think the potential remedy for my wellbeing lies in the hands of the very politicians, least affected by my medical conditions.

    Any wonder that those who desperately need any & all remedies to cure their medical conditions are NOT going to wait for the political wrestling to end, before making their own decision in curing their own conditions.

    Thanks for another interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — October 10, 2018 @ 12:19 AM

    • BIG Pharma wants your money.

      That’s why they’re working on their own medical marijuana — WITHOUT THC (heaven forbid you might get “high”).

      Don’t worry, they’ll find a way to develop their own medial marijuana (FDA approved, of course).

      Just follow the money. 😦


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 10, 2018 @ 8:29 AM

  6. Ugh….again with this nonsense?
    Look, there is only ONE THING that matters currently. Cannabis is a schedule 1 and it needs to be changed to a schedule 2.
    Until this happens there will be absolutely zero research done with any recorded results because, right now, that is illegal by federal standards.
    Meaning, there will be no “standards” applied to anything, it is all based on opinion and “my buddy told me it’s this kind” of crap.
    Can you imagine having to go see the Dr., having them prescribe you THE MEDICINE that will work for you, and you had to go and purchase your medicine from some “dude” who swore on his mother it really was the “correct” type of drug your Dr prescribed you?
    Until it is rescheduled, it’s all trial and error.
    There is currently no list of different strains of cannabis with listed side effects and applications(tons of opinions and individual experiences though). Imagine if there REALLY was? There are so many different varieties of cannabis with different variations on each strain and each one can and will produce different effects depending on simply the soil composition and nutrients they are fed.
    How many of my fellow epileptic’s have discussed medical cannabis with their Dr’s? and how many of them said something like “I’m not allowed to discuss that with you”?
    Every other AED is manufactured in a controlled environment to assure the quality and stability of the medications. Sure would hate to have to buy Keppra from some dude who just whipped up a batch in his trailer.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Guy Romer — October 13, 2018 @ 5:24 AM

    • BRAVO!!!

      You really nailed it.

      Variety, quality control, and growing conditions sure are important, as you said.

      Especially when it comes to side effects and real-life applications.

      And no thanks, Guy.

      Trailer park vendors need not apply! 🙂


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 13, 2018 @ 9:37 AM

    • We may be getting our generics from that dude. Only s/he is on a corner far away texting bids…oh well I just took both and am off for some Saturday fun. Here’s to weekends!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Kate jacques — October 13, 2018 @ 10:12 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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