Marijuana is now known to be the wonder herb that has potential to address a good number of medical conditions, and the new addition to that list is the Dravet Syndrome, which is usually observed in young children.
What is Dravet Syndrome?
Dravet Syndrome is a rare genetic dysfunction in the brain. Children affected by this condition will have a developmental disability, to a certain degree. Before 1989, this syndrome was known as epilepsy with polymorphic seizures or Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI). Dravet Syndrome often begins when the babies are around six months old. According to Linda Laux, MD, from Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the seizures in Dravet Syndrome are difficult to control, and at times, these can be deadly, too.
Some of the major symptoms associated with Dravet Syndrome are-
- Prolonged and frequent seizures.
- Delayed language and speeches.
- Behavioral and developmental delays
- Sensory integration disorders
- Sleeping difficulties
The common cause for Dravet Syndrome is the mutation in the gene SCN1A. The improper functioning of this gene will lead to improper functioning of sodium channels in the brain. The seizures in this type of epilepsy are often triggered by hot temperatures or fever.Dravet syndrome is usually treated with multiple drug therapy. However, this condition is relatively resistant to most of the conventional forms of treatment, which results in need of an alternative means to address this condition. Another reason why alternative medicine is looked for, largely is that traditional treatments for epilepsy come with a number of side effects.
CBD as an answer…
Various studies have shown that cannabis has the capability to reduce the severity of the seizures, and in some cases eliminate them. Both the major cannabinoids Cannabidiol(CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC), are said to effectively address reduce or eliminate seizures in various epileptic disorders. Clinical trials have shown that THC also exhibits anticonvulsant properties. However, usage of THC for epileptic seizures is not something that is studied extensively, and the main reason for this is the psychoactive property of this cannabinoid.
CBD is the major component of interest, due to its pure therapeutic properties.CBD will reduce the seizures through its interaction with the cannabinoid receptors(CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid systems, in the body. The CB1 receptor has the ability to inhibit the release of specific neurotransmitters and reduce the overall neuronal excitability, through which the triggers of seizures are silenced. The researchers believe that CB2 indirectly dysregulates the endocannabinoid system in the brain, which leads to seizures caused by Dravet Syndrome. The observations made with respect to CB2 can constitute to the potential route of treatment. Researches experiments are conducted regularly, to study the potential biological pathways which can be targeted using CBD and other cannabinoids, in order to fight against the Dravet Syndrome.
Of course, medical marijuana treatment for kids is a debatable scenario. But, when all other options go ineffective, it is worth giving a try to alternative medicine like this, as it has a comparatively lesser number of side effects. One of the studies from Israel that examined the effect of CBD-rich medical marijuana strain on epileptic children observed that in around 89% of the children seizure frequency had gone down with CBD treatment. Along with this, improvements in terms of behavior, alertness, language, motor skills, and sleep, were also observed.
There was another study made on one of the not-so major cannabinoids – cannabidivarin(CBDV), talks about the anticonvulsant properties of this cannabinoid, which is also non-psychoactive.
Another study was conducted on 120 children and adolescents who suffered from Dravet syndrome and drug-resistant seizures, in New York and Chicago. These 120 candidates were categorized into two random groups. One group was treated with oral CBD treatment, daily along with the regular medications, and another group was subjected to placebo along with the regular treatment. The seizures frequency in each candidate, was recorded, throughout the trial, of 14 weeks.
After 14 weeks, the following observations were made-
- The convulsive seizures rate in the CBD-administered group dropped from an average 12.4 per month to 5.9 per month.
- Seizure rates in the placebo group dropped from 14.9 per month to 14.1 per month.
Apart from these, observations on the side effects were also made. 93% of the participants from the CBD-administered group, complained about temporary side-effects such as drowsiness, diarrhea and decreased appetite; whereas in the placebo group, it was only 75%. According to Linda Laux, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who is one of the co-authors of this study, the results seem encouraging; however, more data is needed, in order to determine the safety and long-term efficacy of marijuana(cannabidiol), as the treatment for Dravet Syndrome.
The story behind Charlotte’s web…
Is it just a marijuana strain with one of the cannabinoids in larger proportions?
No. Charlotte’s Web is very much associated with Dravet Syndrome.
Using medical marijuana for seizures wasn’t very popular until a Colorado family used it, for this condition. This particular strain has higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC. Stanley Brothers of Colorado produced this strain for the first time. Charlotte’s Web is named after a girl Charlotte Figi, who is popularly known as the “the girl who is changing medical marijuana laws across America.” Charlotte was born in 2006 and suffered from Dravet Syndrome and by age 3, she was severely disabled and had 300 grand mal seizures a week, alongside the treatment. She took her first dose of medical Marijuana, when she was five years old, in 2011. Her parents and physicians say that the frequency of seizures went down, remarkably after her first dose. In 2013, her parents stated that her condition had improved, and she had only 3-4 seizures per month, and she could engage herself in normal childhood activities without any problems.
We see that the results are promising, and we also know marijuana, could be effective; all we need now is some more pieces of solid evidence, which could prove the efficacy of marijuana and its unique medicinal properties. Medical marijuana is now already being used for pain management extensively and this is a sign, that day is not far when people prefer medicinal marijuana for their health issues, over prescription medicines, which at times, come along with the side effects that are way too costly.