On Monday, researchers at a meeting of the American Epilepsy Society encouraged parents to await rigorous studies before administering cannabis to their children. Despite the recent surge of parents reporting that CBD-only treatments help control their children’s seizures, physicians are hesitant to recommend this regimen because there hasn’t been enough clinical testing. As of yet, the scientific community has yet to establish cannabis’ effectiveness at treating epilepsy, nor its side effects – both alone and in combination with other medications.
One study presented at the meeting indicated that parents who moved to Colorado to access cannabis were three times more likely to report it helped their children than families already living there. In this study, 58 children with the average age of seven years old who treated their epilepsy with cannabis were examined. Parents of 18 of the 58 children reported their children’s seizures were reduced by half while consuming cannabis. However, after taking brain wave readings (EEGs) for 16 of the children, researchers found that only two children saw actual signs of improvement. What’s more, 47% of children in the study experienced negative side effects: 21% had more seizures than before, 14% experienced sleepiness or fatigue, and 10% had more serious side effects.
Some potential problems with the study were noted, including the fact that the children were taken off their other medications while taking cannabis extracts, which may have altered their body chemistry. If the patient were to continue taking other drugs, it’s unknown how cannabis would interact with those mediations.
The resounding message of the conference was clear: more clinical research is needed to truly understand if cannabis effectively treats childhood seizure disorders. Most of the recent media coverage has largely come from parents reporting that CBD helped their child become seizure-free, and while it’s possible, the medical data to back up their claims isn’t here yet.
With several clinical trials of cannabis’ effects on childhood epilepsy scheduled to begin in early 2015, we hope to get an answer to this question soon.