Medical Marijuana and Epilepsy

by | May 31, 2021 | Conditions, Health & Relief

Updated on November 26, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Shatha Atiya.

Nothing compares to the sparkle in a patient’s eyes, and the cheerfulness in their voice when they recount how medical marijuana relieved their epilepsy.

Finding the right medication is like seeking El Dorado for the 30-40% of people diagnosed with epilepsy who don’t respond to conventional epilepsy medication.

However, happiness is within reach. Living a ‘normal’ life is achievable. Accomplishing your goals when you have epilepsy is possible—even when traditional medicine fails you.

Medical marijuana has become a light at the end of the tunnel for many epilepsy patients. And, there are both scientific reports and real-life testimonies to back these bold claims.

Benefits of medical marijuana for epilepsy

Having seizures and epilepsy may compromise one’s safety, relationships, work, mental and physical health.

Traditional epilepsy medications may solve the problem of seizures but do little in solving the other problems associated with the condition.

Epilepsy medications are often guilty of causing a host of adverse side effects. For example, irritability, insomnia, and aggressive behavior.

These side effects become unbearable when the medication is ineffective at performing its most basic function; stopping seizures.

But, patients taking medical marijuana for their epilepsy get a break from these side effects while at the same time experiencing greater relief. Additionally, patients may gain from an improvement in mood, energy, and sleep.

One survey revealed that some parents discontinued anticonvulsant medicine for their children after observing the beneficial effects of cannabidiol (CBD)–besides reporting improved and well-tolerated seizure control.

Medical marijuana and epilepsy research

As mentioned earlier, about a third of patients treated for epilepsy have a drug-resistant form of the condition.

A patient has drug-resistant epilepsy when their seizures are uncontrollable even after using the appropriate dose of at least two antiepileptic medications.

Drug-resistant epilepsy comes with a reduced quality of life, adverse psychological consequences, and cognitive problems. As a result, thorough research continues on all fronts to find an effective treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy.

In the search to solve this medical puzzle, clinical trials pursue the answer on whether medical marijuana may be the missing piece in treating drug-resistant epilepsy.

Marijuana has been used in the treatment of epilepsy since the times of Genghis Khan and likely before that—according to historical reports.

More recently, the two well-known active ingredients of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have been studied in the treatment of epilepsy. The latter, CBD is preferred in research for being safer, more effective in treating seizures, and has fewer adverse psychoactive effects.

Mechoulam and Carlini, 1978

The pair, Mechoulam and Carlini, conducted a double-blinded trial back in 1978 involving nine patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Of the nine, four were randomly assigned to a CBD group while the other five to a placebo group.

Patients in the CBD group received 200mg of CBD daily for three months. At the end of the trial period, two patients did not experience a seizure during the entire three months of treatment; the third patient had partial improvement, while the fourth recorded no improvement. No significant toxicity was recorded during the period of the study.

Cunha et al., 1980

Two years later after Mechoulam and Carlini’s findings, Cunha and colleagues conducted another double-blinded trial. In this trial, fifteen patients suffering from secondary generalized epilepsy with a temporal focus participated.

Eight of the fifteen participants participated in the treatment group while the remaining seven joined the placebo group.

Every patient in the treatment group received 200-300mg of CBD daily for eight to eighteen weeks. Additionally, Electroencephalography (EEG) and electrocardiography (ECG) tests were performed at fifteen to thirty-day intervals.

After this double-blinded trial, four patients in the treatment group were seizure-free; three had partial improvement while one didn’t respond to the treatment.

Trembly et al., 1990

Not all trials have been positive in regards to the effectiveness of CBD treatment for epilepsy. One case is the crossover trial by Trembly and colleagues involving twelve patients.

During the study, all twelve patients were treated with a placebo for the first six months, then followed by 300mg of CBD or placebo in a crossover trial lasting an additional twelve months.

The results? None of the participants had an improvement in seizure frequency or side effects.

Devinsky et al., 2017

More recently in 2017, Devinsky and his associates conducted a double-blind trial. This trial involved a significantly higher number of participants compared to previous studies: 120 children and young adults diagnosed with Dravet syndrome and drug-resistant epilepsy.

Like all double-blind trials, patients were divided into two groups. Patients in the treatment group received 20 mg/kg/day of cannabidiol (CBD) for 14 weeks including a 2-week titration phase.

At the end of the trial, the median frequency of seizures declined from 12.4 to 5.9 in the treatment group compared to 14.9 to 14.1 in the placebo group.

Additionally, 43% of patients in the cannabidiol treatment group and 27% in the placebo group had at least a 50% reduction in convulsive seizures.

Remarkably, patients experiencing seizures minus the convulsions remained unaffected by the CBD treatment.

Also, 5% of the patients in the treatment group became seizure-free during the entire period of the study.

Even so, 75% of patients in the treatment group experienced adverse side effects. For example, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and somnolence (sleepiness) – somnolence being the most prevalent.

Medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy

Based on the studies highlighted above, there’s a clear preference for CBD over THC. Even so, when it comes to the treatment of epilepsy with medical marijuana, both THC and CBD have their therapeutic benefits. Either individually, and when used together.

THC or CBD for seizures

Both cannabinoids; THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies to induce various therapeutic and psychotropic effects.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a regulatory and balancing role within our bodies. So, we could assume that an alteration in the ECS would influence epileptic activities caused by an imbalance in electrical activities in the brain.

So, does this mean that CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors, to exert its antiepileptic effects? Apparently not. In fact, the exact mechanism of action of the antiepileptic effects of CBD is a mystery.

Studies by Duncan Ryan et al. and James S. Brodie et al. have concluded that CBD acts on various sites. For example:

  • Intracellular targets like mitochondria
  • Targets located on neuronal membranes-ion channels. For instance, voltage-gated calcium channels and voltage-gated sodium channels.
  • Neurotransmitter receptors.
  • G-protein coupled receptors.

Characteristics that would make it effective in the treatment of epilepsy.

Additionally, CBD is hypothesized to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects; both of which would be attractive traits in any antiepileptic drug. In fact, most effective anti-epilepsy medications have diverse modes of action.

With all the benefits for epilepsy CBD possesses, where does THC come in? Well, first, there’s no clinical evidence of THC’s benefit to reduce symptoms of epilepsy.

But, Rosenberg and his team reviewed preclinical literature spanning 34 studies involving six diverse animal species. They reported that THC demonstrated anticonvulsant properties in 62% of seizure models; proconvulsant (likely to provoke seizures) properties in 3%, mixed properties in 3%, and no effect in 32% of the same.

More studies suggest that THC is also likely to reduce seizure activity through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.

Interaction between medical marijuana and epilepsy drugs

Drug interactions are a common feature of epilepsy treatment using antiepileptic (AED) medication. For instance, the link between grapefruit and seizures.

Neither grapefruit nor its juice triggers seizures. However, grapefruit and its juice increase the availability of some epilepsy medications in the body. As a result, the side effects of the drugs become prominently increased.

Another example of drug interaction is with AEDs and contraceptives. Some AEDs increase the ability of the liver to break down hormones. As a result, contraceptives may end up being ineffective therefore leading to unintended pregnancies.

Likewise, studies have revealed that CBD interacts with some epilepsy medications. Significantly, clobazam; where CBD inhibits cytochrome P450, consequently, increasing the concentration of the drug.

Unlike the interactions mentioned above, this particular combination produced a greater antiseizure effect than when either treatment was used alone.

This discovery, however, casts doubts on whether CBD has antiepileptic properties or it amplifies the effects of traditional AEDs. In my opinion, only more conclusive research can fill such gaping holes brought about by the mystery that is CBD’s mechanism of action in treating epilepsy.

FDA approved cannabinoids

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been sloth-paced in approving medical marijuana or marijuana-based drugs for a myriad of conditions. To be fair though, it takes thorough and conclusive research for a drug to get the FDA’s green light of approval; something medical marijuana is lacking.

Legality issues have played a big role in marijuana’s stagnation for approval by the FDA.

Still, in 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex; an oral cannabidiol (CBD) solution for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome for patients aged 2 and above.

This approval by the FDA was the first of its kind for a drug that contains a purified substance sourced from marijuana.

To clarify, marijuana-based drugs differ greatly from marijuana available legally or illegally, owing to the reliability of their content and purity. Additionally, FDA-approved CBD is different from commercially available CBD oils.

Two more FDA-approved marijuana-based drugs include:

  1. Marinol or Syndros (Dronabinol): to increase appetite in people with AIDS and reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
  2. Cesamet (Nabilone): a synthetic cannabinoid that mimics THC to prevent or reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.


It is only right to know a little more about Epidiolex since it’s the first marijuana-based drug that received FDA approval to treat rare forms of epilepsy.

The road to Epidiolex’s FDA approval

The FDA-approved Epidiolex for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome after evaluation of the benefits and side effects of the drug across four clinical trials.

The first three trials tested both the benefits and the safety of Epidiolex while the fourth trial focused only on the safety of the drug.

What are the ingredients of Epidiolex?

Epidiolex contains about 99% of cannabidiol (CBD) and about 0.1% of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Also, Epidiolex is a purified form of CBD derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant.

What company makes Epidiolex?

GW Pharmaceuticals is the manufacturer of Epidiolex.

CBD oil for epilepsy

CBD oil for epilepsy

As mentioned earlier, commercially available CBD oil isn’t FDA-approved nor is it reliable in the treatment of any condition. This is because many manufactures tout their products as having life-changing capabilities despite the absence of supporting data from clinical trials.

Additionally, contrary to medical marijuana, CBD oils are readily available to patients without them needing to get certification from their respective states to buy or use them. Also, legal hemp-derived CBD oils contain less than 0.3% of THC.

These products may not be as purified as FDA-approved marijuana-based drugs but do contain a high amount of CBD which might be beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy.

Reliable CBD oil manufactures such as InstacraftCBD prepare their CBD oil from quality hemp plants and then get a third party to test them in the lab. So, such CBD products may prove beneficial for epilepsy patients.

How does CBD oil stop seizures?

The CBD in CBD oils is likely to work in the same way the studies mentioned earlier. For example, working on the transient receptor potential (TRP) caution cells leading to a decrease in the presynaptic release of glutamate.

To clarify, this is an assumption since the quality of many commercial CBD oils is untested.

CBD oil side effects

Trials by Devisnksy et al. not only showed the good antiepileptic effects of CBD but also the adverse side effects. Some of the side effects experienced by patients included:

  • Sleepiness or drowsiness (somnolence)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased convulsions
  • Abnormalities in liver function that gradually return to normal with continuous use.

Equally important is that most of these side effects are reversible by medical marijuana. Hence, the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of epilepsy.

Both THC and CBD work together for a balancing effect. So, most of the side effects of using CBD with little to no THC are avoidable by the administration of both cannabinoids.

Indica or Sativa for epilepsy

Some Indica strains are CBD dominant; meaning they contain more CBD than THC. This composition makes them preferred in the treatment of epilepsy.

Also, Indica strains have sedative qualities which aid in treating anxiety, headaches, muscle spasms, and so on.

Sativa strains on the other hand are usually THC dominant; meaning that they have a high concentration of THC when compared to Indica. The Sativa strains are the opposite of Indica where they are more energizing and give people a boost.

Despite their notably higher THC content, some people experience relief from seizures and spasms from Sativa strains. Also, Sativa strains help with nausea and stimulate appetite.

Still, strains high in CBD and low in THC tend to work best in the treatment of epilepsy.

Best medical marijuana strains for epilepsy and seizures

Due to the effectiveness of CBD in the treatment of epilepsy, CBD-high strains are the go-to when treating epilepsy with medical marijuana. These strains, in particular, receive praise from patients for their effectiveness in mitigating their epilepsy:

1. Ringo’s Gift strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? The Ringo’s Gift strain is a hybrid strain with Harle-Tsu and ACDC ancestry.

Effects: Ringo’s Gift delivers an uplifting headrush that leaves the user happy and social while warm soothing full-body relaxation takes over.

The effects from this strain are far from overwhelming and supply the user with mental energy and focus; free from any racing thoughts.

Medical value: Ringo’s Gift is a medical strain and rightfully so because of the relief it provides from pain, anxiety, fatigue, muscle spasms, and most importantly seizures.

This strain’s unique make-up of considerably high CBD levels and low THC levels makes it perfect in the treatment of epilepsy. Users will experience elimination of their tics plus a noticeable decline in the frequency and severity of their seizures.

Time to use: The Ringo’s Gift strain works well as a daytime strain to provide relief and relaxation besides motivation to get things done.

Bonus Information: This strain is named after the late Lawrence Ringo, a cannabis activist, and CBD pioneer.

2. Elephant ears strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? The Elephant Ears strain is a descendant of the Dogwalker OG and Grease Monkey strains and is a hybrid strain.

Effects: If laughter is the best medicine then the Elephant Ears strain makes a good point. Users will experience the euphoria that manifests into bursts of laughter.

Afterward, a relaxing body high takes over leaving the user in a sedentary state (couch-locked).

Medical value: Pain, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, stress, migraines, and symptoms of epilepsy fade away once the Elephant Ears strain takes control.

Time to use: The heavy sedative effects of the Elephant Ears strain make it a nighttime strain.

Bonus Information: This strain is very potent and a little goes a long way.

3. Cannatonic strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? The Cannatonic strain is a hybrid strain made from crossing the MK Ultra with the G13 Haze.

Effects: Cannatonic delivers a short-lived pleasant high that is uplifting yet incredibly relaxing.

Its gentle cerebral effects are overpowered by strong numbing sensations that pulsate throughout the body.

Medical value: The Cannatonic strain is a medical strain whose composition is significantly high CBD content and low THC content. This makes it one of the best strains for epilepsy and seizures.

Additionally, pain, whether mental, emotional, or physical is no match for Cannatonic. Also, muscle spasms, anxiety, migraines, depression, and inflammation exit the scene when this strain takes effect.

Time to use: The focus, energy, and relaxation Cannatonic provides make it a suitable daytime strain. 

Bonus Information: Like most CBD-rich strains, the psychoactive effects of the Cannatonic strain are non-existent or barely felt.

4. Charlotte’s web strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? The Charlotte’s Web strain is a hybrid shrouded in mystery but its hemp heritage is obvious.

Effects: When users take Charlotte’s Web strain, effects are felt like an improved sense of well-being and slight sensory enhancement.

But, the ‘high’ is absent or minimal and users remain clearheaded.

Medical value: This medical strain is the go-to strain when it comes to treating seizures and epilepsy. Its results are impressive and users can look forward to a drastic fall in seizures.

Moreover, Charlotte’s Web strain comes in handy when treating anxiety, pain, stress, inflammation, and depression.

Time to use: The non-intoxicating properties of Charlotte’s Web strain make it a great daytime strain.

Bonus Information: The Stanley brothers of Colorado are the creators of Charlotte’s Web strain, famous for its amazing results when treating epilepsy.

Speak to a Cannabis Doctor

With QuickMedCards you can book and attend your marijuana evaluation online

Before starting their medical marijuana treatment, patients with epilepsy need a medical marijuana card to be eligible for medical weed. But, getting a medical marijuana card shouldn’t be the only service patients receive when seeing a cannabis doctor.

Treating epilepsy with medical marijuana requires the care and guidance of a qualified cannabis doctor. Since seizures experienced by epileptic patients vary, so could their reaction to medical marijuana.

In some cases, the wrong strain of marijuana could worsen the epileptic episodes in patients. Hence the need for a qualified professional experienced in tending to epilepsy with medical marijuana.

This requires a cannabis doctor with compassion, a wealth of experience, and one that can tailor the conversation around a patient’s specific needs. An assurance for all patients who book their appointment with QuickMedCards.

Patients dealing with epilepsy and debilitating seizures not only qualify for medical marijuana in the following states but also access to our cannabis doctors:

Patient stories on medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy

As reassuring as the scientific reports may be; real-life experiences from people who successfully used medical marijuana to treat their epilepsy are what have made medical cannabis so sought after as a treatment. Below are some actual situations when medical marijuana dramatically improved patients’ lives.

Charlotte Figi (Origin of Charlotte’s Web)

Charlotte Figi was born in 2006 with a rare and drug-resistant form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. She experienced her first seizure at 3 months old.

At five, Figi was confined to a wheelchair because of the severity of her seizures; which could occur as frequently as 300 times a week.

Desperate for a solution, Figi’s mother looked into CBD oil to aid in her daughter’s treatment. She administered CBD oil to Figi, extracted from the CBD-dominant strain “Hippie’s Disappointment” which was later renamed Charlotte’s Web.

The outcome was nothing short of miraculous. Figi’s seizures drastically dropped from 300 a week to two or three in a month. For the first time, Figi could thrive. She could ride her bike and get manicures with her sister.

The story of Figi’s successful treatment spread like wildfire and her story helped support US legislation on medical marijuana.

Because of her condition, Charlotte Figi was never expected to live past 8 years old. But she beat the odds and lived a happy life.

Sadly, Figi passed away in 2020 at the age of 13 after battling pneumonia.

James and his newfound relief

James, a Canadian resident was taking antiepileptic medication since he was 16 years old. Specifically, Tegretol (carbamezipine). During his treatment, he experienced seizure-free years albeit experiencing adverse side effects.

After a good run, the medication stopped working and his seizures returned. James decided to consult his doctor to get to the reason why his once effective medication abruptly became ineffective. His doctor didn’t have an answer.

Other doctors recommended that he up his dosage. Something he was unwilling to do because of one side effect he claimed to experience; depression coupled with serious suicidal thoughts he felt like acting on. To clarify, James had never dealt with depression before his treatment with Tegretol.

Being a Canadian resident, James had access to medical marijuana and he decided to try it out. His first doctor was unwilling to write him a prescription. So, he sought the services of another doctor who was willing to try medical marijuana as a treatment option.

After his doctor’s approval, James tried the Abathasca strain; a high CBD low THC strain. His preferred mode of delivery was a vaporizer due to the ongoing debate on whether smoking marijuana may be detrimental to lung health.

A year and a half later, James didn’t experience a single seizure!

Besides the relief James got from his seizures, he reveals that the end of his depression and suicidal thoughts was the best outcome of his treatment with medical marijuana. “Now.” James said, “I can function better.”

Shortcomings of medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy

The scarce clinical trials and patient testimonies on the effectiveness of medical marijuana for the treatment of epilepsy have their limitations. And a lot needs to happen before medical marijuana can be conclusively declared as a viable treatment of epilepsy. Some of the limitations include:

Limitations in clinical trials

Firstly, there’s a major issue with the placebo effect in epilepsy drug trials. One reason for this may be the lack of a biomarker for seizure frequency or epilepsy control.
A placebo effect is a beneficial outcome from a placebo drug or treatment. But the benefits are not from the properties of the placebo itself but largely due to the patient’s belief in the treatment.

Secondly, for eligibility to enter a trial, patients need to show high seizure loads weeks before the trial starts. This may not be their usual seizure frequency, and, as a result, often doing nothing would allow their seizures to become less frequent; the phenomenon of returning to mean.

Finally, is the risk of changing medication in times of crisis. Usually, a sudden stop when taking AEDs may trigger seizures.

Limitations for patients using medical marijuana for epilepsy

Success stories by people who used medical marijuana for their epilepsy may reinforce the belief that medical marijuana is the ultimate answer for epilepsy. Which isn’t the case. Often, this belief may be so strong that patients blame themselves instead of the CBD when the treatment fails to work.

Additionally, the placebo response to medical marijuana is so high that patients fail or are slow to report negative side effects.

Also, patients remain extremely vulnerable because of the many cannabis products readily available advertised as cures for their conditions. When they take the chance, the said miracle drug may fail and patients are either left blaming themselves or lose faith in medical marijuana entirely.

QuickMedCards recommends speaking to a qualified marijuana doctor. And when it comes to CBD oil, InstacraftCBD is a reliable source of pure, third-party-tested, CBD oil.

Can weed cause seizures?

Could marijuana turn into a villain and trigger seizures? Well, a study by E. Gordon and O. Devinsky suggests that marijuana use or withdrawal could potentially trigger seizures in susceptible patients.

However, the same study provides that, the data to determine whether occasional or chronic marijuana use influences seizure frequency is inefficient.

Evidence points towards marijuana and its active cannabinoids having antiepileptic effects, but these may be specific to partial or tonic-clonic seizures.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder involving the central nervous system, which causes disruptions in the electrical activity of the brain. As a result, patients experience repeated and unprovoked seizures.

To clarify, experiencing a seizure isn’t a diagnosis of epilepsy. Seizures may be set off by reversible medical conditions. For instance, alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar.

What causes epilepsy?

The cause of epilepsy is unknown yet it may result from brain injury or family tendencies in some instances.

Is there a cure for epilepsy?

There’s no cure for epilepsy and therapy targets reducing the instances or the severity of seizures patients experience.

Treatment options for patients with epilepsy may include, taking medicine, having surgery, or following a special diet.

However, if the cause of seizures is known, patients can avoid them and live seizure-free lives without needing epilepsy medication.

Is epilepsy a disability?

If well controlled, epilepsy isn’t necessarily disabling. However, epilepsy can get into a patient’s way of life, especially when seizures keep happening despite taking medication. In this case, patients may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a manual called a Blue Book containing disability listings. And convulsive and non-convulsive epilepsy make the list. But, to qualify, patients must prove that:

  • Firstly, the seizures are severe and unresponsive to medication despite following their doctor’s advice to the latter.
  • Secondly, that alcohol or drug use isn’t contributing to the ineffectiveness of their medication.
  • Thirdly, their severe seizures stop them from carrying out their daily activities.

Epilepsy medication

The most commonly used epilepsy medications are anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). AEDs are frequently prescribed by doctors because of their effectiveness in controlling seizures in most epileptic patients. There are many types of AEDs for example:

  • Sodium valproate
  • Carbamazepine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Levetiracetam
  • Topiramate

Factors such as type of seizures experienced, age of the patient, or whether the patient plans to have a child will influence the doctor’s decision when prescribing one of these AEDs.

Typically, AEDs are taken daily and patients should never abruptly stop taking AEDs since that may trigger a seizure.

Should the patient not experience a seizure in a few years, they may speak to their doctor about stopping treatment. If the doctor agrees, they may gradually reduce the dosage until the patient is finally weaned off.

Side effects of epilepsy medication

Patients on epilepsy medication may experience their side effects within days after starting or a few weeks into the medication. The side effects vary based on the medicine but common side effects of AEDs include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Hair loss or unwanted hair growth
  • Swollen gums
  • Rashes
  • Feeling drunk
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression

Best seizure medication

The best seizure medication is the one that effectively treats the type of seizure the patient experiences.

Even so, some seizure medications are considered frontline therapy while others get prescribed later as ‘reinforcements’ for additional seizure control.

Based on clinical trials, Lamictal (lamotrigine) is the best first choice for partial epilepsy while valproic acid (sodium valproate) comes first when treating generalized epilepsy.

But, as mentioned earlier, doctors take a lot of factors into consideration before prescribing certain epilepsy medications. For instance, valproic acid, supposedly the best medicine for generalized epilepsy is particularly dangerous if administered to young children.

Same case with medical marijuana for epilepsy. Only a qualified cannabis doctor would know what strain would be best to bring a patient the most relief from their epilepsy.

Other treatment options for epilepsy

Treating epilepsy doesn’t take the singular route of administering epilepsy medication only. In some cases, lifestyle changes are a must. And sometimes, other medical options come into play when epilepsy medication is ineffective.

Some treatment options for epilepsy include:

Ketogenic diet: Or Keto diet is an option for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. The high-fat and low carbohydrate composition of this diet may control seizures by changing the levels of chemicals in the brain.

Surgery: Brain surgery is an option for epilepsy treatment in two cases. Firstly, if the epilepsy is drug-resistant. Secondly, if the seizures start from a specific removable part of the brain. There’s the possibility that seizures may stop entirely after surgery. But there are risks involved.

Other medical procedures: Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) are alternative procedures when epilepsy medication fails and brain surgery isn’t an option. These procedures involve the insertion of a small electrical device in the body to mitigate seizures.

Medical marijuana: studies and patient testimonies suggest that medical marijuana may be effective in the treatment of epilepsy. However, advice from a qualified cannabis doctor is critical for the success of this treatment method.

What’s the Epilepsy Foundation’s stance on medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy?

The position of the Epilepsy Foundation is progressive and considerate. In their own words,

“The Epilepsy Foundation is committed to supporting physician-directed care, and to exploring and advocating for all potential treatment options for epilepsy, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical cannabis. We support safe, legal access to medical cannabis and CBD if a patient and their health care team feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis or CBD for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks. To this end, the Foundation supports the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act (H.R. 2093/S. 1028 in the last Congress).

We also support breaking down barriers to research to better understand the potential therapeutic benefits and harms of cannabis as would be accomplished through the Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act (H.R. 4322/S. 2400 in the last Congress). The Epilepsy Foundation does not have a policy position on adult use recreational cannabis programs – however, under these laws, individuals and their physicians are able to work together to access cannabis to control seizures when medically appropriate.”

The Epilepsy Foundation


Some like to pour cold water on the efficacy of medical marijuana for epilepsy. Often, supporting their stance with arguments such as:

  • Scant evidence-based support makes medical marijuana unproved in the therapy of epilepsy.
  • Well-designed investigations on the risk-to-benefit ratio, safety, and efficacy of medical marijuana for epilepsy patients are lacking.

These arguments are valid but skewed towards discrediting the real-life stories of patients whose lives have improved since beginning their medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy.

It’s important to understand that research on medical marijuana is thin for several reasons. For example:

  • Federal restrictions on marijuana due to its status as a Schedule I substance.
  • Financial and time constraints to fund research.

Therefore, patients with epilepsy have the right to access medical marijuana if they have the slightest chance of benefiting from the treatment. As long as they get proper guidance from a medical professional that understands their needs.

Key Takeaways

  • The components of medical marijuana, particularly CBD may have antiepileptic effects. Therefore, CBD may help mitigate seizures arising from epilepsy.
  • FDA-approved marijuana-based drugs are different from commercially available CBD oils,
  • Limited clinical trials on medical marijuana’s efficacy in treating epilepsy do not discredit it as a potential form of epilepsy therapy.
  • Patients seeking medical marijuana to treat their epilepsy should consult a qualified cannabis doctor.