Home » CBD and Seizures: Using CBD for Epilepsy

CBD and Seizures: Using CBD for Epilepsy

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CBD and Seizures: How CBD Could Benefit Those With Epilepsy

Cannabis, marijuana, pot, weed ­– we know this plant by many names.  There was a time when any of these words elicited a strong, hateful response from most of the population. However, in recent years, not only has it become more accepted, but one of its derivatives ­– cannabidiol (CBD) – might also be beneficial in helping with a lot of mental and physical health problems, epilepsy being one of them.

While everybody responds differently, using CBD oil for epilepsy appears to help a lot of patients. This is good news, considering that the disorder can be quite difficult to handle, even with prescription medications. While it’s no substitute for conventional treatment, this alternative makes a difference in a variety of cases. If you happen to have epilepsy and aren’t pleased with the results of your doctor’s normal solutions, it might be worth looking into the relationship between CBD oil and seizures.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes people to experience chronic seizures. Some individuals only have them occasionally, while others experience them every day. The frequency could be so severe that living a normal life becomes tough. Fortunately, this only accounts for a small percentage of cases.

Some seizures affect the entire brain at once (generalized), while others only affect a specific area (partial). Generalized episodes are the most common, where patients either stare into space (petit mal/absence seizures) or go into full-blow convulsions (grand mal/convulsive seizures). Partial seizures, on the other hand, are focused, so a person could remain conscious while losing only certain functions, like vision or hearing.

Whichever the type, seizures are scary to watch, but they’re not inherently dangerous. The real risk stems from things like falling or hitting hard objects, like furniture or the floor. Drowning is also a risk, which is why doctors recommend that people with epilepsy avoid taking baths.

Most people who suffer from epilepsy can live normal lives. In fact, lots of notable figures have either been confirmed to have, or believed to have had, some form of epilepsy. A few of these include Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander the Great, James Madison, Theodore Roosevelt, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Danny Glover, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Beethoven and even Hugo Weaving (a.k.a. “Agent Smith” from The Matrix). The point is: epilepsy won’t set you back or affect your intelligence.

What sets epilepsy apart from other disorders, however, is that no two cases are alike. This makes it a real headache to treat. Some people respond well to treatment, while others may not improve at all. For those who have only the occasional episode, epilepsy amounts to an inconvenience – albeit a strong one. But patients who have several convulsive or partial seizures a day can’t function well.

Most epilepsy cases have no known origin. They’re caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. More rarely, things like brain scarring, tumors, drug withdrawal, diseases (i.e. meningitis) or brain damage could cause people to develop epilepsy. But aside from surgery in some of these situations, there is no cure for epilepsy.

People with epilepsy often deal with some annoying assumptions. Specifically, there are two major misconceptions that need to be addressed.

First off, it’s widely believed that flashing lights trigger seizures. While this is true, they only affect 3% of epilepsy patients. The fact is that there’s an infinite number of potential triggers out there, and they all change on a case-by-case basis.

Second – and more dangerously – rumor has it that people experiencing a convulsive seizure are going to swallow their tongue. If you try to swallow your own tongue, you’ll find that it’s firmly attached to your mouth. In other words, the whole claim is just a load of nonsense.  Unfortunately, this prompts people to put things in a victim’s mouth whey they’re having a seizure, which sometimes causes choking.

Honestly, we could go on and on about this, but what we really want to talk about is the exciting potential of CBD helping people with epilepsy.

What better way to learn about using CBD for epilepsy than through a first-hand example?

My Experience Using CBD for Epilepsy

As you may have guessed from my emphasis on famous people and rather strongly-worded denunciation of epilepsy myths, I happen to be one of the 1% of people who “suffers” from epilepsy. I use quotations because, as far as cases go, mine is pretty mild.

Going back to the flashing lights issue I mentioned earlier, it turns out that I don’t fall into that 3%. My seizures were apparently triggered by hyperventilation during exercise, as well as strong emotional states, like anxiety and excitement. Yes, being happy caused seizures for me, but fortunately they were only the short absence ones, not full-blown convulsions.

I was diagnosed at the age of eight. At the time, I only experienced the absence variety. This means that, several times a day, I’d stare blankly into space and lose awareness for a few seconds. As time went on, they got progressively shorter to the point where they barely lasted more than a second.

But at age 14, those hopes were crushed. I experienced my first convulsive seizure while outside on my lawn. Interestingly enough, these ones happened once a month, like clockwork. I started taking medication (lamotrigine) to control these, but my doctor decided to hold off on using medicine for my absence seizures, as these medications can do a number on developing children.

At age 20, I started on a second medication – a very common one called “valproic acid” – to get the absence seizures under control. I responded fairly well, and a year later I finally was able to obtain my driver’s license, as per the law in my province of Ontario.

I’m 33 now, and I’ve had to up the dose after a few episodes, one of which resulted in a one year medical suspension of my license.  Unfortunately, the side effects of taking a higher amount of meds (specifically valproic acid) started making life difficult. I’d sometimes get nauseous and was almost always anxious and jittery. My hands would shake, making me clumsy.

About a year ago, I decided to research the relationship between CBD oil and seizures after hearing about its benefits. Needless to say, it proved to be a real life-saver.

How CBD Helped Me

Taking CBD oil for epilepsy was a real gamble on my part.

I want to just emphasize again that CBD isn’t a substitute for prescription treatment.

But in order to see if it would help me, I had to reduce my pill dosage a little bit. Since the side effects were likely due to my petit-mal medication, however, the worst thing that might happen was that I’d start blanking out again. To be safe, I decided to quit driving for a few weeks to see how things went. Initially, I smoked it with a vaporizer, but I found it uncomfortable. I still do from time to time if I want a quicker effect, but CBD oil became my primary source. The only difference was the time it would take to hit me.

The risk paid off. I was able to reduce my (apparently high) dosage of valproic acid by 250mg – a 25% reduction. Not only did my seizures stay controlled, but the anxiety, nausea, and tremors that made my life difficult virtually disappeared.

One thing I read was that, when ingesting cannabis oil or any other form of edible cannabis, was that it takes time to kick in. Taking too much has been known to make people excessively high, so I started small, as per my doctor’s advice. Initially, I took 0.2 milliliters, then eventually upped it to 0.4. Typically, I’d use it in the morning on an empty stomach to speed up absorption. I felt it within 30 to 45 minutes, give or take.

I’d also like to mention that I did try variations with THC, but the head high made me unable to function. CBD, on the other hand, was different. Just like what I read, CBD created a sort of “body high,” bringing relaxation and curbing nausea without the dopiness that we see in those cliché (but hilarious) Harold and Kumar movies. Based on my past experience with THC, I decided to avoid it and stick with products that were CBD dominant.

In the end, I was quite happy with the outcome and will continue to take CBD as long as I’m on medication – in other words, for the rest of my life.

Research on CBD for Epilepsy

My own anecdotal evidence might sound great, but it’s not conclusive. So let’s take a look at a more reliable source. According to a 2016 article in Scientific American, researchers used CBD on 162 epilepsy patients, in addition to conventional medication. According to the article:

The researchers reported the intervention reduced motor seizures at a rate similar to existing drugs (a median of 36.5 percent) and 2 percent of patients became completely seizure free. Additionally, 79 percent of patients reported adverse effects such as sleepiness, diarrhea and fatigue, although only 3 percent dropped out of the study due to adverse events.

Furthermore, Kevin Chapman, a pediatric neurology professor from the University of Colorado went on to say that, “I was a little surprised that the overall number of side effects was quite high but it seems like most of them were not enough that the patients had to come off the medication.” So even if there were side effects, they were preferable to the ones created by prescription medication.

In other words, results were mixed, but promising. True to epilepsy’s nature, each person’s outcome was radically different. Further research is needed to confirm whether most people with epilepsy would respond well to CBD. But it appears that it’s a viable option in extreme circumstances when all other avenues have failed.

How Does CBD Oil Work for Epilepsy?

Ah, the million dollar question. Ironically, nobody’s truly sure even how regular medications work when treating epilepsy; they just do. Theoretically, however, it’s that CBD has a calming effect on your nervous system.

Seizures occur when your brain goes into overdrive. Huge spikes in brain activity are what cause seizures. If CBD oil does directly help with seizures in some cases, then the oil’s ability to essentially chill out the brain is what stops this spike in activity.

Final Thoughts

In the end, using CBD oil for seizures is tricky territory. On the one hand, research definitely generates hope for those who suffer from severe epilepsy with no other recourse. The problem is that prohibition limits our ability to really give CBD – and cannabis in general – the attention it needs.

Hopefully, as cannabis becomes more widely accepted (and legal), we’ll have a chance to look into it on a larger scale and bring relief to the roughly 22 million people worldwide who deal with epilepsy.

12 comments

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  • Ameliafontaine@icloud.comm
    My friend start have sezuires last year. 55 ur old surfer male Non for 4 months. And today four. Is regular cbd we see at shops. Over counter.. for sezuires is it prescription, different compound. Isolated fir sezuires. Or is all same. He has some script to control but want him to add cbd. Any brand. Strain. You recommend?

    • Hey Amelia. Thanks for your question. I recommend you OK it with his doctor before adding CBD into the mix. It’s always a good idea to let the doctor know.

      CBD is CBD no matter what form it comes — marijuana, hemp, or isolate. So it more comes down to a personal preference and finding a product that works for each person.

      Terpenes will vary depending on the the strain which the CBD has been extracted from. Linalool is a terpene which has shown to have anticonvulsant properties. So I would look for a product high in Linalool.

      In some cases, other cannabinoids like THC and THCA have shown to be beneficial for seizures as well.

      I recommend you check out this paper as it’s a good overview and contains case studies as examples.

      By the way, what state are you located in? I may be able to recommend a good doctor who works with cannabis. Please let me know 🙂 If you don’t feel comfortable sharing it here, you can always email me at: cbdprofessor@cbdschool.com

  • should you continue with seizure medication aswell as cbd?
    No seizure activity for 3+ years, 3 seizures in one day then nothing.

    Are the meds keeping them at bay or was it due to scar tissue??

    Should his meds be reduced

  • Looking for cannabis friendly doctor for our grandson in the Mobile Alabama or New Orleans areas. Wanting to get him off the pharama meds. Thanks

    • Hey Jeff. Thanks for your inquiry. I completely understand your desire to help your grandson. I don’t know of any cannabis doctors in that exact area but would you please tell me a little more about what you are looking to use the cannabis products for? Have you tried discussing this with his current doctor? One of my top recommendations is Dr. Bonni Goldstein. She practices out of California and has experience working with children and cannabis medicine. I realize she is far away from you but she offers phone consulting if that is something you would be interested in. Please let me know any other questions and I will try my best to help. Sometimes a simple Google search for what you are looking for in your local area can also yield good results. Just be careful to vet any cannabis doctor you find as some may not be the best fit for your needs.

  • I am on Depakote and Limotrigine for my seizures. I am taking CBD oil now for one week in morning and evening. I also take my seizure meds in morning and evening. How long should I wait after taking meds to take the oil?

    • Hey Randy. Thanks for your inquiry. Please check with your prescribing doctor on this question. I cannot provide medical advice but I will always do my best to help in any way I can 🙂

  • I have seizures approximately every two or three months. I weaned myself off of Klonopin as I hated taking a drug and started taking CBD oil . I’m now up to about 150mg a day.Do you know of a good doctor I could consult with near New Orleans, LA. I am 65 yrs old and have epilepsy as a result of a brain tumor removed over 6 years ago.i hate the partial complex seizures I have had ever since

    • Hey Janice. Thanks for your inquiry. I’m sorry to hear about your struggle. I recommend you consult with a doctor on this as I can’t help with medical advice. I don’t know a doctor in that area unfortunately.

      Usually a simple Google search will yield at least a place to start. Let me know if you can’t find anyone and I will do my best to help 🙂

  • Can I take CBD Cannabis Oil this is a list of my medicine that I take Baclopar 10mg 3tablets 3 times a day Pregabalin Krka 100mg 3 times a dayPantoprazole 40mg once a dayCalcium D3 Forte 500mg/400Iu once a day Zorclone 7.5mg at night Dulcolax5mg 2 every other day Centrum advance 50+
    I have spinal cord injuries

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