Epilepsy affects more than 65 million people in the world. It’s a general term for a number of conditions that cause seizures – disturbances in the brain’s electrical activity. Depending on the cause, epilepsy can be treated with medication, strict dietary regimens, or even surgery. But, for many people with epilepsy, conventional treatments may not be effective. Now, though, numerous studies reveal that cannabis is a powerful neuroprotectant that can help to regulate signaling in the brain and protect it from the effects of seizures.
There are many different kinds of epilepsy, but all types are characterized by seizures – interruptions in the brain’s normal electrical activity. There are about 40 different types of seizures, causing a variety of symptoms ranging from mild episodes of “blanking out” to grand mal seizures that can require hospitalization. Some seizure types can mimic other conditions, like fainting or stroke, and some can cause near-constant seizing that severely disrupts daily life.
Seizure disorders can strike anyone at any age, and although some kinds of epilepsy are genetic, others are caused by structural problems in the brain, such as tumors or strokes. Traumatic brain injuries can also lead to seizures, and so can exposure to toxins, including alcohols, industrial solvents, and some anesthetics and antibiotics. All these situations create conditions in which the signaling between neurons in the brain is briefly disrupted.
Seizures can often be controlled with a variety of anti-epileptic medications targeted to specific seizure types. In some cases, strict diet protocols can also help. When seizures are caused by a tumor or other kind of pressure on the brain, surgery can also solve the problem. But, about a third of all patients have drug-resistant epilepsy. To find ways to relieve their symptoms, researchers have turned to cannabis.
Cannabis has been used around the world to treat a variety of health problems – including seizures. Now, recent research has validated those ancient practices, with the discovery that compounds in the cannabis plant, particularly cannabidiol, or CBD, can reduce the number and intensity of seizures, even in people who don’t respond to conventional anti-epileptic medications.
The human body is home to a large network of endocannabinoid receptors, which respond to cannabis-like substances naturally produced within the central nervous system. These receptors also respond to the very similar compounds in natural cannabis.
Endocannabinoids damp down the effects of an excitatory neurotransmitter that appears to be responsible for triggering seizures. Cannabis compounds can act in a very similar way to balance brain signaling and protect neurons from harm during the ‘electrical storms’ that cause seizures.
Cannabis compounds, especially CBD, also have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. Research reveals that cannabis can also help to protect neurons from permanent damage in circumstances as varied as traumatic brain injury and stroke. Several studies also show that cannabis can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures even in severe seizure disorders such as Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy that begins in infancy and causes serious disruptions to all areas of life.
Epilepsy and seizures are qualifying conditions for Medical Marijuana in Utah. To get your Medical Marijuana Card, you’ll need to meet with a medical provider who can certify your qualifying condition and enter your information into the state user database. For more information or a consultation, schedule an appointment with us today.