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May 22, 2014 10:44 AM EDT

Marijuana May Reduce Seizures In Epilepsy Patients


In addition to treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, marijuana may also reduce seizures in epilepsy patients, according to a recent study Live Science reported.

A case study of a family living in Denver, Colo. suggests that cannabis can help treat intractable seizures in children. The child in the family suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome and used to have as many as 50 convulsions a day.

The mother started giving the child a strain of marijuana with high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in the plant that does not produce a "high," Live Science Reported. Soon after taking the drug along with her typical anti-epilepsy medication, the seizures decreased considerably and now the child suffers from just two to three seizures per month.

"As medical professionals it is important that we further the evidence of whether CBD in cannabis is an effective antiepileptic therapy," Dr. Edward Maa, author of the report, wrote.

Other parents have reported similar experiences.

In a recent survey, more than half of 19 parents of children with severe epilepsy said their child's seizure frequency dropped by at least 80 percent after starting the CBD-enriched cannabis treatment.

However, experts stress that it remains unproven whether using the drug to treat epilepsy is safe or effective. Hey said it is possible that some patients experienced a placebo effect.

"[Anecdotal reports] can give a potential signal of efficacy and safety, but doctors, patients and parents are all biased," Dr. Maria Roberta Cilio, director of pediatric epilepsy research at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in a commentary accompanying the new report in the journal. "Rigorous investigation of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana or individual components such as CBD are necessary for patients with epilepsy before any conclusion is made."

Tests are currently being carried out on Epidiolex, a new epilepsy drug derived from cannabis. It is now tested on 300 test subjects in the United States.

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