Epidiolex – the FDA approved CBD treatment for epilepsy
Epilepsy comes in many forms and can be a truly crippling disability for some. It can also be fatal, as severe seizures could randomly occur, causing serious injury. Seizures date back centuries (some believe that Julius Caesar suffered epilepsy, for example), but it is only in recent years that scientists have had a breakthrough regarding effective medication.
Unfortunately, some forms of epilepsy have proven problematic if not impossible to treat with pharmaceutical drugs, and some patients complain that the side effects of these treatments greatly outweigh the expected positive results. For that reason, epilepsy and other seizure disorders are of high priority in medical research.
Naturally, when the anticonvulsive effects of Cannabidiol (CBD), the chief active molecule in CBD products, became apparent, medical researchers took a severe interest in extensive research as to how CBD could be considered an alternative option, and perhaps the ideal medication.
The medical cannabis industry witnessed a large breakthrough as the FDA formally approved ‘Epidiolex’ almost a year ago as an approved treatment of both Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, which are two of the most severe forms of epilepsy.
This is actually the first drug to be approved for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome, which has previously been treated with off-label CBD products.
So, what is in Epidiolex?
Epidiolex has one active cannabinoid, and that is CBD. As opposed to a full plant extract, which is the method of many CBD oils, Epidiolex is made using CBD isolate.
Epidiolex is available as a pale yellow crystalline solid or as an oral solution containing Cannabidiol at 100 mg per ml, along with inactive ingredients such as alcohol, sesame seed oil, sucralose, with a strawberry flavour. This is essentially a higher potency version of the all-natural CBD oil that can be purchased online or in retail stores.
Epidiolex is more expensive than CBD oils and tinctures, but there is a possibility that you could claim Epidiolex via an insurance policy.
Does Epidiolex get you ‘high’?
Quite simply, no. In fact, Cannabidiol has been cited by the World Health Organisation for its lack of side effects or potential for abuse. This lack was a big part of the drug being approved by the United States’ FDA and the grudgingly slow movement of acceptance by the NHS (National Health Service).
CBD is a separate molecule from the better known and psychoactive cannabinoid, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). It was the false equivalency between CBD and THC. THC is the cannabinoid which incurred the stigma that had surrounded cannabis for generations due to its psychoactive capabilities.
Most non-pharmaceutical CBD products are derived from industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive member of the cannabis family. These plants contain high levels of CBD, and contains a level of below 0.3% THC; this is THC count that distinguishes the plant as hemp instead of the recreational “drug” cannabis.
How does CBD work to fight epilepsy?
Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome – typically occur in early childhood. They are associated with frequent seizures (typically either tonic or febrile seizures) as well as learning disabilities and developmental problems.
These seizures are notoriously hard to control with previous medication, the fact that Cannabidiol reduces the frequency and severity of these seizures is a godsend for patients, as much so for their parents or carers.
As to how it actually works, the research is young, however, with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and how cannabinoids interact with our body, we may be nearing the answer.
What other alternative treatments are there for epilepsy?
There are a variety of alternatives in Western medicine regarding epilepsy and seizures.
- A Ketogenic Diet has been cited to be effective in some cases. Its evidence dates back more than 100 years as a treatment for epilepsy; some studies indicate that it can help prevent seizures in children who failed to respond to standard anti-seizure medications. Proving to be less effective in adults.
- Biofeedback has proven successful to help reduce the frequency of seizures in some forms of epilepsy. Although, research is lacking in order to fully understand its effectiveness.
- Music has been noted to have both positive and negative effects on seizure disorders. Some studies indicate that jazz or pop music (note, the research was done in the 1990s) may either trigger seizures or show improvement. However, Mozart’s Sonata “K448” made epileptic children less likely to suffer seizures or unusual brain activity. The exact cause of the so-called’ Mozart effect’ remains a mystery.
- Some studies show that stress relief through exercise, yoga or meditation can reduce abnormal brain activity, thereby reducing the likelihood of seizures.