Using cannabis to treat epilepsy goes back 3,800 years-but it was in may 2016 that the first credible study was done.It found cannabidiol (CBD),one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals in marijuana,reduced seizures in children by 23 percent Dr.Shoun Hussain,a pediatric epilepsy specialist at UCLA and director of the infantile Spasms Program,spoke with writer TOrn Cunneff about epilepsy and CBD.
I specialize in a form of epilepsy known as infantile spasms,which is pretty heinous and for which available therapeutic options are rather limited.The seizures are not all that dramatic visually-just little head drops that happen in clusters upon awakening-but the intellectual consequences are enormous,Untreated,these kids are on a path toward mental retardation,autism and possibly death,When you look at treatments that are available to patients with this particular brand of epilepsy.One poses is a risk of life-threatening infections,another threatens vision loss.
You can imagine being a parent,seeing that landscape and feeling that desperation and being willing to go out on a limb to find something that works whether or not its effectiveness has been proven.
Finding the RIght Help
It’s usually the parents who bring up marijuana as an option.They are very enthusiastic and i find myself talking them off the ledge and trying to have a reasonable discussion about the true risks,benefits and unknows of these therapies. If you just look at reports of success with medical marijuana products online,you’d get the immediate impression these are highly effective and definitely safe but there’s on incredible blas as to what stays online.
If a parent tries one of these products and is completely unsuccessful,they’re much less motivated to go online and advertise their failed use of a federally illegal controlled substance.
You can’t prescribe CBD for patients becouse it’s not FDA approved,but there are manufacturers who distribute cannabidiol enriched products online.You can also go to local dispansaries in states that allow the sale of medical marijuana.The problem with these products is they are often simply just low quality.Some products advertised to have cannabidiol have none: some have twice as much.When you think about giving your kid an anti-seizure medication,you want something consistent and we just don’t have that with marijuana-based products.That’s why a pharmaceutical product that’s highly purified and consistent is much more attractive to most physicians.
“What Should We Do?”
Where it gets especially sticky is the use of these products in the hospital.if you have a patient who has seemingly benefited from the use of a medical marijuana product and they are admitted to the hospital,our hospital licensure and our hospital DEA licensure dictates that controlled substances cannot be used in the hospital without a prescription.
All marijuana products,including pure cannabidiol,are still classified as Schedule 1 controlled substances.for which the official view is that they do not have a proven efficacy and they only pose harm.So every time these patients come to the hospital,we catch ourselves asking.What do we need to do to best protect the patients and what do we need to do protect the health system and our licensure?
The answer is to always do what’s in the patient’s best interest-protect the patient,worry about your license afterward. We don’t hide their use.