As those with epilepsy are aware, this is a serious condition that can be difficult to treat. Traditional medications sometimes don’t help and can have negative side-effects. That is why it is important to be aware of how medical marijuana works within the brain to control seizure activity.
What is Epilepsy?
Those with epilepsy have recurring seizures that result from an “electrical storm” (in other words, the activation of a massive number of brain cells all at once) in the brain. Seizures depend on different factors, such as the part of the brain involved, genetic predispositions, and medications.
There are different types of seizures that range in severity. Absence (formerly petit mal seizures) are common in children. Tonic seizures typically occur in the limbs and cause muscle stiffness while atonic seizures lead to loss of muscle control. Clonic seizures involve repetitious muscle jerking in the face, neck, and arms.
Myoclonic seizures normally impact the arms and legs and have very sudden onsets. Tonic-clonic (formerly grand mal) seizures are the most severe and can lead to a loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy can result in a number of different and sometimes deadly complications, such as depression, anxiety, car accidents, pregnancy complications, falling, and drowning. Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is rare but can happen if a seizure causes impaired respiration. The highest epilepsy rates can be found in children and in senior citizens.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Although there is no known root cause for epilepsy as of 2017, there are multiple factors that seem to trigger seizure activity in the brain. Genetic factors seem to be the most prevalent, as researchers estimate that there are about 500 different genes that could be linked to epilepsy.
Other potential causes of epilepsy include sustaining a traumatic head injury, neuropathic conditions, brain tumors, strokes, prenatal injuries, infectious diseases, and developmental disorders (including autism).
Additionally, risk factors for epilepsy onset include age, a history of head injuries, a family history of epilepsy, vascular diseases, childhood seizures, dementia, and infections in the brain (especially meningitis).
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Symptoms of epilepsy tend to vary with the type of seizure activity being experienced. The most common symptoms of epilepsy include staring off into space, a temporary bout of confusion, loss of consciousness, and uncontrollable muscle jerking (often in the legs and arms).
Seizures generally don’t last longer than five minutes, but if they do, it is crucial that the person suffering the seizure is seen by a doctor as soon as possible.
How Medical Marijuana Might Help
Epileptics who have had negative reactions to seizure medications are finding relief with medical marijuana. This is due to the fact that the cannabis plant contains a cannabinoid called Cannabidiol (CBD), which, unlike THC, is nonpsychoactive.
CBD acts as a neuroprotectant because of its reuptake inhibition abilities. CBD is able to compete with the body’s endocannabinoids (a type of fatty acid) for molecules that transport it into cell membranes.
Once inside the cell, CBD inhibits the breakdown of anandamide by the metabolic enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This elevates endocannabinoid levels in the synapses, which seems to play a role in reducing seizure activity.
Are There Side-effects?
Current methods for treating epilepsy range from taking prescription medications to having invasive surgery to help control seizure activity.
However, the surgery is not effective for everyone, and medications can have unpleasant and even dangerous side-effects (such as loss of bone density, memory loss, and impaired vision).
Although research on how medical marijuana benefits those with epilepsy is ongoing, many people find that it gives them relief from their symptoms without many of the negative side-effects.
The most common side-effects of marijuana strains that are high in THC include increased anxiety and paranoia, increased appetite, dry mouth, and dry eyes. However, studies on CBD use show that, even in high dosages, there are no signs of toxicity, and side-effects are extremely rare and very minor.
Don’t let the stigmas surrounding marijuana use deter you from getting the help you deserve with managing epilepsy symptoms. Relief from epilepsy is available and is just one call away. If you or a loved one are struggling with epilepsy, please give us a call in order to pre-qualify for medical cannabis.