Epilepsy Talk

New Data Back Use of Medical Cannabis for Epilepsy, Pain, Anxiety | July 7, 2020

Two new studies offer positive news about medical cannabis, suggesting that marijuana products improve physical and cognitive symptoms, boost quality of life, and rarely produce signs of problematic use.

In one study, patients with epilepsy who used medical cannabis were nearly half as likely to have needed an emergency department visit within the last 30 days as was a control group. In the other study, 3 of 54 subjects who used medical cannabis showed signs of possible cannabis use disorder (CUD) over 12 months.

The findings show that “there is improvement in a range of outcome variables, and the adverse effects seem to be minimal, compared to what we might have hypothesized based on the bulk of the literature on the negative effects of cannabis on health outcomes,” cannabis researcher Ziva Cooper, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles, said in an interview. Dr. Cooper moderated a session about the studies at the virtual annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.

In one study, cannabis researcher Ryan Vandrey, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues compared medical cannabis users (number, 808; mean age, 38; percentage female, 63%) to a control group of people who were interested in medical cannabis (n, 468; mean age, 35; percentage female, 62%).

In both groups, 79% were White. The groups had similar levels of primary medical conditions, such as neurologic (38% and 36%, respectively, for the medical cannabis group and control group) and chronic pain (25% and 23%, respectively.)

The wide majority of those in the medical cannabis group – 58% – were cannabidiol (CBD) users, relying on a component of cannabis (marijuana) that does not make people high. Fewer than 20% used tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which does make people high, or a combination of both CBD and THC.

Most of those in the medical cannabis group used the drug as an adjunct (39%) to other treatments or last-resort (29%) treatment instead of first line (11%) or second line (18%).

In patients with epilepsy, about 45% of controls reported a past-month ED visit, compared with about 25% of medical cannabis users. The gap in past-month hospital admissions was even wider, at about 35% for the controls and about 15% for the medical cannabis.

After an initial survey, the researchers followed subjects prospectively; some either started or stopped using medical cannabis. From baseline to follow-up, those in the medical cannabis group improved more, compared with those in the control group on a variety of measures of quality of life, anxiety, and depression.

“Folks who were in the control condition at baseline and then initiated cannabis use started to look more like the baseline cannabis users,” Dr. Vandrey said. “The folks who were cannabis users at baseline and then stopped for whatever reason started to look like the controls. And the controls [who never started using medical cannabis] stayed the same.”

As for adverse effects, two-thirds of medical cannabis users reported no problems; the highest number, 14%, reported high cost.

As for limitations, Dr. Vandrey reported missing data, a reliance on self-reports, and poor follow-up with about a third of participants agreeing to complete follow-up assessments. “We are continuing to collect data on this,” he said, “and we’re hoping we’ll be able to drill down more as we get bigger.”

The study was funded by the Realm of Caring Foundation.

In the other study, led by cannabis researcher Staci Gruber, PhD, of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and Harvard Medical School in Boston, researchers tracked 54 subjects (mean age, 49; 20 male and 34 female; 48 white) for up to 2 years after they began medical cannabis use. Most had pain (36) or anxiety/PTSD (31), and all had to have abstained from recreational cannabis use for at least 1 year.

At follow-ups, the users reported improved mood and anxiety via various measures, and they saw some improvement in quality of life. “We did not see worsening cognitive performance,” Dr. Gruber said. “In fact, we saw improved performance or no change on measures of executive function, in contrast to what we see in the literature.”

Research has suggested that as many as 30% of recreational cannabis users develop cannabis use disorder (CUD), Dr. Gruber said. But only 3 of the 54 patients showed signs of possible CUD at 12 months, she said, even though frequency of use jumped substantially vs. baseline.

Information about study funding was not available.

Dr. Cooper disclosed relationships with FSD Pharma, Beckley Canopy Therapeutics, and Insys Therapeutics. Dr. Vandrey disclosed work with Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Canopy Health Innovations, and FSD Pharma. Dr. Gruber reported no disclosures.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com.

SOURCE: MedScape.com by R. Dotinga


  1. Goodmorning Phylis 😊. When I spoke with my neurologist a few weeks ago he told me “there’s nothing we can do for you because it’s a pinched nerve in your neck and the toperimate never helped you.” So then I asked “what about marijuana?”. He said “right now there’s something in the works, but is not available at this moment yet”. I just chuckled and never said anything back. However I don’t think I could ever smoke or vape marijuana because (personally) IT STINKS!!!!!!! I did however go and see a “natural medical doctor” (who can legally prescribe the marijuana to people and he did prescribe me some by it was at the lowest dose and half CBD half TCH. Maybe I will look into getting that prescription filled to see if it will help? As long as it isn’t smokable or vapeable lol 😂 (maybe it’s the smell that gets to me?!). Thank you for this it was VERY HELPFUL!! Please have a very good safe blessed day today and please take care of yourself and Arthur and kitty 🐱 😊🙏🏼🦅😇💕

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — July 7, 2020 @ 11:49 AM

  2. My neurologist had told me that CBD & other forms of medical marijuana is not legal to use yet or prescribe to patients in Virginia, while living in WV it is to be okay to use it all for medical use only as I understand the law in WV. But the GRAND MAL seizures I have had in the past 15 years, I am told that CBD will not help them. This report seems to say a lot of PEOPLE WITH EPILEPSY, not saying what types of seizures that CBD/ medical marijuana is helping people with. If EPILEPSY was just everyone with 1 seizure type only, I am positive a cure would had been here back in 1900, but these AAN, CDC, FDA, / USDA, JHU & NIH supporters all who are funded by BIG PHARMA & CONGRE$$, we will never have 1 cure to stop ALL seizures for life. A VNS is to be good now for me, as I am willing to try 1st CBD IF the type I can take will be pure CBD or other medical marijuana like Kemp & etc,,,that has NO TOXIC FILLERS in the herbal drug, that only makes the condition worse.I know when people hear or see the word ”epilepsy” they instantly think FREAKING OUT or a GRAND MAL / TONIC CLONIC SEIZURE a person has.WRONG !!!

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by James D — July 7, 2020 @ 11:56 AM

    • I think that you’re right, one size does not fit all.

      But at a medical marijuana clinic, they interview you to see what your symptoms are and TRY to use this information to guide you to the best combination or, if you want, single source.

      Notice that “TRY” is the operative word. This is not a science. It’s more like a crap shoot.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 7, 2020 @ 12:42 PM

    • On the flip side JAMES “MARIJUANA IS NATURAL”. Just food for thought

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Kathy S.B — July 14, 2020 @ 1:08 PM

  3. Please pray for me. My shower head snapped off hitting me in the back of my head and knocked me out. I woke up in my shower after over 2 hours on the shower floor. My dad talk me out of going to the hospital emergency room. Please pray I am making the correct decision? I been shaking alot after I woke up in my shower after getting knocked out by the shower head breaking off and hit me in my head. Where my shunt is.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Rusty Hanawalt — July 7, 2020 @ 12:20 PM

    • I sincerely think you should go to the hospital. It’s more than likely that you had a concussion which should be seen to.

      This is nothing to ignore, no matter what your dad says. He is NOT a doctor.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 7, 2020 @ 12:44 PM

    • I SURE PRAY YOU WENT TO THE HOSPITAL!!!!! Honestly what is it with DADS OR HUSBANDS?? Seems to me “THEY KNOW EVERYTHING AND YET REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT MAYBE THEY DON’T!!!!!!!”. Sorry that’s just based on my husband telling me I’m “OVER REACTING” until we really do almost have a “TWISTER” and “SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNINGS”!!!!! Then THEY PANIC!!!!!!! Oh THANK CREATOR/GOD/MY GRANDMA AND ALL MY OLD PEOPLE FOR “MY CHILDREN”!!!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Kathy S.B — July 14, 2020 @ 1:06 PM

  4. know a friend that had surgery , to remove the part of her seizures.. after that had a child , been friends with her over 15 yrs , but after a messy divorce, she raised the child by herself , she even started medical pot ,close to 10 yrs no seizures off the meds then 5 yrs ago , started having seizures .. scary for her son who was 8 at the time .. told him memorize all important phone numbers 911 EMT , even ask mom to notify friends nearby .. now hes watching her more , helping her out on certain things .plus back on meds for seizures … it may help for some , with certain seizures , but until , its legalized, in all states , even with health insurance coverage / medicare too , must add to coverage { somethings that medicare doesnt cover , health insurance will not cover , found out , this when needed acupuncture , both insurance / medicare didnt cover . had to pay full price

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Cathy Flowers — July 20, 2020 @ 9:50 AM

  5. Medical marijuana is expensive. I know someone who pays hundreds for his prescription and of course, it’s not covered.

    As for alternative methods, unfortunately, they’re considered just that by insurance companies who are reluctant to pay anything out of the mainstream.

    If it can’t be patented and BIG pharma isn’t there to collect its profit, you can be sure, the reimbursement will be little to nothing.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 20, 2020 @ 10:00 AM

  6. Do I need a prescription in nyc for this. Is it expensive. Where do I get it. Live in Staten Island my. 10314. Rsbk66@aol.com

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Risa kugal — August 31, 2020 @ 11:40 AM

  7. How can I get in a study of Cbd? I believe cbd or thc need to be regulated because I see them in dispensaries with same name but different affects. What do you think? I think it can help in many different ways but we need to find how much CBD or thc it’s in it.


    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Daniel O — August 31, 2020 @ 11:54 AM

    • I’m afraid it’s a crap shoot.The first time you go to a dispensary, you will probably be assigned to a counselor who will try to piece together a recommended mix of CBD and THC.

      After that, you’re on your own. The variations of CBD/THC vary wildly and it’s different for each person, because of different body chemistry.

      I know someone who has tried 8 different combinations of CBD/THC in tincture, tablets, and vaping. He now gets limited success with the tincture.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more specific or give you better guidance, but there no hard and fast rules. The only one who rules, is you.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 31, 2020 @ 12:14 PM

  8. […] New Data Back Use of Medical Cannabis for Epilepsy, Pain, Anxiety — Read on epilepsytalk.com/2020/07/07/new-data-back-use-of-medical-cannabis-for-epilepsy-pain-anxiety/ […]


    Pingback by New Data Back Use of Medical Cannabis for Epilepsy, Pain, Anxiety – Mandope’s Mischief — September 3, 2020 @ 4:03 PM

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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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