Epilepsy is a serious disorder that affects the central nervous system, causing seizures in the brain that can be devastating for both children and adults. It is generally diagnosed and identified through a series of tests including neurological exams, bloodwork, EEG’s and various scans.
Epileptic seizures can be so mild they are almost unnoticeable, or severe enough with muscle cramps and violent twitching that a victim can bite through their own tongue. If left unchecked over time, epilepsy can do severe damage to anyone who suffers from it. But there is hope that the health benefits of cannabis can help epilepsy sufferers in many ways, from reducing the number and severity of seizures, to restoring a sense of normalcy, to easing associated pain.
Inside the Seizure
Epilepsy is largely defined by the type of seizures that occur and there are literally hundreds of variations of epilepsy syndromes. But what is it like to have a seizure? It’s been described by one patient that it’s like an out of body experience. He gets a short warning before seizures and says his mouth tastes like he touched his tongue to a live battery, then things tend to get fuzzy and distant. He can sense things but not remember details. There is fear and no sense of control over anything. Then he becomes alert and aware all at once, scared and somewhat lost. He said it is like “hitting water after jumping off a 100 foot high dive and smacking back into reality.”
It’s important to know that seizures affect different people in many different ways. Some feel pain, some remember things, and some remember nothing. Some people get warning signs that a seizure is coming and others get no sign at all. The one commonality amongst most epileptics that suffer seizures is that there is some form of lost time and a complete blackout or a distinct separation from reality. It is far from pleasant and seizures can have devastating impacts and can even cause death. Unfortunately, the health benefits of marijuana, CBD and other cannabinoids have not been widely researched by the scientific community for treating epilepsy. As a result, many sufferers still endure far too many seizures because of this lack of sanctioned medical research.
Life with Epilepsy
While there are many marijuana products for grown-ups that can help fight the devastating effects of epilepsy, certain medicines are traditionally prescribed. These medicines also carry possible side effects that pose a threat to the health and wellness of many epilepsy sufferers. It’s often a tradeoff between the amount of seizures they endure and the side effects for which cannabis may help:
It’s also common to encounter dizziness, speech and coordination issues, memory loss and a condition known as Sudden Unexplained Death (SUDEP).
On top of all of this, the prescribed medicine often has to be varied, it can lose its effectiveness, or is minimally effective. And this is just the commonly prescribed treatment for epilepsy. Living with epilepsy itself is often a nightmare. While patents don’t generally remember much about the seizure, the muscle cramps and spasms can be severe, causing muscle damage and hurting bones.
Fear and Questions About Seizures
People with epilepsy and their loved ones live in constant fear of seizures. When will the next hospital visit come? How much damage will this seizure cause? How long will recovery take and will recovery be complete? What happens if a seizure occurs while driving? There is a constant state of the unknown and fear that accompanies the serious physical issues. It’s an understatement to say that the psychological and emotional toll can be extremely hard for the patients and their loved ones.
People Using Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy
Cannabis for adults has many therapeutic properties that can help combat epilepsy. For some people the right mixture of cannabinoids has been shown to help reduce the duration of seizures, for some people it makes them less severe, and for many it cuts down on the frequency of seizures. While much more research is needed, cannabis seems to be helping many people cope with epilepsy. There are a number of marijuana-related treatments specifically on the market (the most well-known is Charlotte’s Web) that have been developed to help people with epilepsy lead more normal lives.
- Mary has struggled with epilepsy her whole life, suffering from severe daytime and nocturnal seizures. After years if mixing and matching prescription medicines that did little to help alleviate the impact of her seizures, Mary found that CBD in a few different forms helps her in many ways, Taking Charlotte’s Web and Jayden’s Juice, another CBD epilepsy product on the market, has helped Mary maintain control during seizures, cut down the duration of the seizures, and even fight the fear that comes with seizures.
- One patient was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager. After going through the typical string of chemicals and drugs, he found a medicine called Depakote that helped with the disorder. However, the drug has been reported to cause well-documented, serious side effects especially unpleasant for a teenager including weight gain, premature baldness, and a possible long term threat of kidney damage. He stumbled upon the benefits of medical marijuana through experimentation and has since become an expert on the healthy properties of CBD and growing medicinal marijuana. He is now an advocate and a leading teacher of cannabis cultivation.
- One father has fought tooth and nail to get relief for his son who has severe epilepsy. His condition was so serious that he had to take large amounts of steroids to simply attend school each day. The side effects were dangerous and often painful, even giving the boy a condition known as moon face where the face swells as if it were pumped full of air. Ultimately after a long legal battle and spending an incredible amount of money to help treat their tormented son, the young man has been treated with Charlotte’s Web and Epidiolex, an oral CBD treatment that is the first FDA-approved CBD product on the market.
More Needs to Be Done
Medical marijuana for adults provides many benefits that can help improve the quality of life, ease the suffering, and improve the health and wellness of people afflicted by epilepsy. While the medical marijuana community is making great strides in developing products to help epileptic patients, hopefully more FDA-approved medicines will be soon be available.
We’d love to hear any comments that you may have about this article and topic. Please join the conversation whether you’re a patient, caretaker, a family member or friend of someone with epilepsy, and we appreciate all points of view.
Don Eminizer is a freelance writer with twenty years of writing, editing and proofreading experience.