According to a new Canadian study, cannabis oil with a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be effective in treating kids with Dravet syndrome, which is a form of epilepsy that causes severe seizures.
THC is a psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis. This component creates a high for cannabis users.
Researchers at Canada’s The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) conducted a small test using an experimental oil on 20 children suffering from Dravet syndrome. This rare form of epilepsy is notorious for being difficult to treat.
Dravet syndrome is incurable
Dravet syndrome starts in the first year of a baby’s life and causes frequent and prolonged seizures. In fact, some children have it so bad that they have more than 20 seizures in just one day, and more than a thousand in a month. As a result of these seizures, the children suffer significant learning disabilities and development delays.
Moreover, Dravet syndrome is an incurable condition. While conventional epilepsy drugs can reduce the frequency of a patient’s seizures, these medications often fail to completely control them.
CBD oil as treatment
However, in the past several years, there has been increasing interest in the use of cannabis oil as treatment for severe seizures.
A study conducted last year and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Dravet patients who were given cannabis oil together with their traditional medications saw an improvement in their condition. There’s evidence that their monthly seizures were reduced to half. In fact, some kids even went seizure-free after taking cannabis oil.
The NEJM study administered cannabis oil containing only cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, the chemical compound CBD does not create a euphoric effect. So this ingredient has been the main focus of interest when it comes to the use of cannabis for the treatment of childhood epilepsy.
The new study
So, the main difference between the old NEJM research and the new SickKids study lies in the use of two main compounds: CBD and THC.
While the old study used cannabis oil with only CBD, the new study administered a cannabis extract oil containing both ingredients. The new study used CBD, as well as a small amount of THC.
The new study is based on recent research suggesting that cannabis oil containing THC might be superior to CBD-only formulations when it comes to reducing epileptic seizures. There has just been concern about how children would be able to tolerate the presence of THC in their treatment.
This new study found that most of the kids saw a significant reduction in their seizures after taking the CBD+THC oil formulations for several weeks, with none of their caregivers reporting that the kids experienced mind-altering and hallucinatory effects.
How the SickKids study was conducted
The study involved 20 Dravet syndrome patients with an average age of 10 years old. Each of them were given TIL-TC150, a product containing CBD and THC with a ratio of 50:1. This product was donated by Canadian cannabis plant extract company Tilray, which also funded the new study.
Researchers started by giving low dosages of the product to the kids, then slowly increasing the dosage over several weeks. Only eight of the kids reached the researchers’ target dose.
Side effects and benefits
Most of the patients developed side effects as the study went along. These side effects include decreased appetite, increased sleepiness, and diarrhea. The side effects reportedly improved in most of the children as they developed tolerance to Tilray’s product.
According to SickKids neurologist Dr. Blathnaid McCoy, who is also a member of the research team, in those patients who reached the target treatment dosage, they saw a statistically significant decrease in motor seizures, as well as an increase in seizure-free days, compared to those participants who did not make it to the target dose.
The study found that the higher the dosage, the better the patients’ seizures were managed and brought under control. Many of the kids’ caregivers also reported that the patients’ quality of life has significantly improved.
McCoy said that the research team hopes for their findings to lead to a much larger study on how cannabis oils can help more children suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy.