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Research Finds Cannabis For Epilepsy May Not Be The Miracle Everyone’s Talking About

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One of the biggest positives to come out of the medicinal benefits of marijuana are the miraculous stories regarding parents of children with some forms of epilepsy who are giving cannabis to their children and are seeing results that pharmaceutical drugs weren’t providing. But according to an article in FoxNews.com, researchers are claiming cannabis isn’t a proven treatment for childhood epilepsy and people should wait for more studies to decide whether the drug is safe or effective.

The researchers presented their findings this week at the meeting of the American Epilepsy Society in Seattle. They also explained that in fact, parents with high expectations may overestimate the effects of marijuana on children with epilepsy. In one study, researchers surveyed parents in Colorado whose children had epilepsy and were treated with marijuana. Parents who had moved to the state because it is legal there to use pot recreationally were three times more likely to report that cannabis helped their children, compared with families who already lived in the state.

Cannabis contains a number of chemicals, with the two most popular being the compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is associated with the high that comes with taking cannabis, and has also been shown to reduce nausea and increase hunger. More attention lately has been focused on CBD as the chemical that may reduce seizures, but he researchers feel more needs to be done to determine CBD’s usefulness.

In another study, researchers looked at 58 children, average age of 7, who received marijuana for their epilepsy. The parents of 18 of the 58 children reported that the number of seizures their kids suffered was reduced by half while they were taking the drug — suggesting that about 30 percent of the kids benefited. In addition, 29 percent reported their children showed improved alertness and improved behavior. But the researchers had brain wave readings called electroencephalograms (EEGs) for 16 of the 58 kids in the study that were taken before and during treatment with marijuana. They found that just two kids showed signs of improvement. This translates to 12.5 percent of these kids seeing a benefit.

And negative side effects happened in 47 percent of all the children in the study, with 21 percent of them having more seizures than before, 14 percent having sleepiness or fatigue, and 10 percent having more severe effects, including one child who needed intubation to help breathing, and another who died, although the researchers felt the death was unrelated to the cannabis. One potential issue with the study is that some doctors took children off other medications they were taking when the children started taking cannabis extracts, which may have altered the chemistry within their bodies. Also, cannabis may affect the concentration levels of other drugs the children are taking, which can also change how they respond to their epilepsy.

Another parent survey found the need for more trials. That survey was given online to 53 parents of children who have infantile spasms or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, who had taken marijuana extracts containing CBD. The researchers found that 92 percent of parents said their children had fewer seizures after taking CBD, and 13 percent said their child was seizure-free. The kids had tried eight medications, on average, and had not been helped. The parents also said the drug helped their children sleep, and increased alertness and mood.

But researchers feel it should all be “taken with a grain of salt,” explaining, “This is generally a pretty desperate group of patients and parents, and they are highly invested in the belief and the hope that these cannabis extracts are truly effective.”

Several clinical trials on cannabis’ effects on childhood epilepsy are scheduled to begin in early 2015.

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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