Epilepsy can be a devastating diagnosis for children and families alike. Feeling like your child’s life has been interrupted and they can no longer enjoy the activities they once had, or that you thought they would, is heartbreaking.
But parents and doctors all over are making a fuss about cannabis and CBD oil. Most of us have heard something about it.
If you’re still wondering what it’s all about, and how it can help, then here you go…
High CBD Strains for Epilepsy
There are several high CBD cannabis strains out there; some old, some new. Hemp is the better known one, since it’s been around for centuries, and has been used for different purposes, both medicinal and industrial.
When it comes to epilepsy, some popular high CBD strains are Valentine X, AC/DC, Cannatonic, Therapy A, among many others. But Charlotte’s Web, which was originally called “Hippie’s Disappointment”, is one of the better known ones when it comes to use for minors, due to it being high in CBD and extremely low in THC (30:1 ratio), which means it doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects, even in small children. But, hemp and other high CBD strains are very similar to it and more easily obtained. Plus, they also have the beneficial effects that people seek when searching for alternative treatments for epilepsy.
What can CBD do for epilepsy patients?
CBD has anti seizure, antispasmodic and neuroprotective properties, which help epileptic patients reduce the frequency of seizures, loosen the muscle spasms that they are prone to, and slow, or even reverse, the deterioration that the seizures cause in the brain.
There have been several heartwarming success stories of epileptic children who have been treated with CBD oil. And Hippie’s Disappointment, for example, was renamed after a patient that responded very well to it in 2012.
Real Children have benefited from it…
Charlotte Figi, who was five when she started taking CBD, suffers from a very complex type of epilepsy, called Dravet syndrome, which was causing her to have around 300 seizures per week. And, since most children who suffer from this illness die before the age of 10… At this point she was already halfway through her life expectancy.
Her parents eventually came to the realization that traditional medication was not going to do much for their daughter’s condition. And as they looked into alternative treatments, they came across cannabis, which was already being used for epilepsy patients.
They wanted their daughter to enjoy life and have as much quality time as possible, since she was only five. Her illness was not allowing her to be a child and experience life the way she should have been able to.
“During that time, she lost the ability to walk, talk, eat, and really just, like, participate in life at all; she couldn’t do anything, she just sort of laid in my arms, catatonic. And I just thought that was it…” Charlotte’s mom said.
After trying “Hippie’s Disappointment”, Charlotte improved dramatically, only suffering from three or four seizures per month. And, in an impressive turn of events, she was able to completely go off her strong epilepsy medication.
Epilepsy in Children
There are several cases like Charlotte’s. This isn’t an isolated situation, epilepsy affects an alarming number of children and adults in the country, and in the entire world, and it has no cure at the moment, so finding the best, least harmful treatment, should be a priority.
What is it?
Epilepsy is a chronic illness that affects the brain, and is characterized by frequent, unpredictable seizures which are not caused by any other underlying condition (such as fever).
People who suffer from epilepsy can be affected by it in a variety of ways because there are different types of seizures and different causes for the illness. So there’s no way to know how much a person’s quality of life will be altered before they have lived with epilepsy for a while.
In 2015, epilepsy affected more than 3.4 million people in the United States. That is 1.2% of the country’s population. Of these, 470.000 were children, and 3 million were adults.
It is estimated that, today, 0.6% of children suffer from active epilepsy. Though it might not seem like it, it’s a lot.
Mostly, the cause for epilepsy in children is unknown. However, stroke, brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, and central nervous system infections can cause epilepsy in people who didn’t previously suffer from it.
Types of Seizures
According to Epilepsy Ontario, there are two main types of epileptic seizures, and each has its own sub-types respectively:
- Focal Seizures: limited to one point in the brain.
- With retained awareness
- With loss of awareness
- Generalized Seizures: there is seizure activity in both hemispheres of the brain.
- Absence seizures: the child abruptly becomes unaware for a period of time.
- Tonic-clonic or convulsive seizures: first, the child loses consciousness, stiffens, and falls to the floor. Then, the extremities begin twitching uncontrollably.
- Atonic seizures: the child loses consciousness and collapses.
- Clonic seizures: the person loses control of their body and starts twitching involuntarily; it might involve loss of consciousness, followed by confusion.
- Tonic seizures: muscle spasms, flexion or extension of the arms or legs, and impaired consciousness.
- Myoclonic seizures: abrupt muscle jerks in different parts of the body.
Depending on the type of seizure a person suffers from, it will look different to those around them, which is why it’s so scary for parents who witness their child’s first ever seizure; it’s something no parent expects to see, and most don’t recognize it for what it is. It can be extremely alarming.
Why are CBD and Hemp getting so much attention from parents of epileptic children?
Before Charlotte’s Web was popularized for pediatric seizure disorders, strains like hemp and AC/DC were already being used as an alternative treatment for epilepsy patients, including children. And they still are, since CBD has no side effects and no risk of overdose as far as we know.
In the past few years, actual medical studies and trials have been conducted in different countries, with very positive results, which brings a lot of hope to the medical community.
There are a lot of illnesses, epilepsy among them, which have not yet been fully unravelled, and medication for it hasn’t been perfected. Symptoms and complications are tough to deal with, so science is constantly trying to figure out which medication could be developed in order to help without causing side effects that are worse than the actual illness.
Since cannabis has had such a bad reputation due to its known recreational use, looking into it medicinally has been generally frowned upon. This preconception has slowed the research and the studies, especially when it comes to children. However, we’re coming to a point when illnesses are becoming less deadly, but more impairing. Yes: people now have a longer lifespan, but a very poor quality of life.
It is particularly harrowing for parents to see their young children suffering and not enjoying life. This gives them the courage to try options that might be unpopular, because they really have nothing to lose.
This is the reason why, in the past few years, CBD has had a lot more buzz. Parents are looking, the internet is showing, and, when something works, those parents want to share their experience with the world and with other parents.
Parents and healthcare professionals have several concerns: does CBD oil affect a child’s development? Does it get them high? Does it make them more likely to develop an addiction in the future?
The answer to all of these is NO.
CBD in no way affects a child’s development. In fact, in cases where a child suffers from epilepsy or autism, where the cognitive development is impaired, CBD treatments have been shown to stop, and even reverse this deterioration and improve psychosocial abilities.
Does the Child get High?
It doesn’t get children “high”. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects, and people who consume it retain their full capacity and awareness.
Does it Generate Addiction?
CBD has been proven to be non-addictive; it does not create habit or make children or adults more likely to develop it in the future.
The benefits, however, have the potential of preventing brain damage which would have been caused by years of frequent and strong seizures.
CBD: Improving the Quality of Life
Today, thousands of parents and doctors swear by CBD. Remember these are families who have known heartbreak closely by seeing a crippling illness reduce their child’s quality of life immensely.
This is the hardest part of chronic illnesses. Surviving, but not living. Or seeing someone survive, but not live.
CBD is able to not only treat an illness, but to return joy and life to a person, child or adult, who has forgotten what it feels like to enjoy day to day activities. It doesn’t just reduce seizures; it gives something back. And it’s not just for epilepsy patients. CBD helps with a number of symptoms, chronic or acute.
What should I do if someone is having a seizure?
If you see someone having a seizure, it can be very scary. You might feel extremely worried and be afraid to hurt the person by trying to help.
If there’s a doctor in the room, he or she will likely identify themselves and take charge of the situation. Let them! And be ready to assist them if needed, but don’t get in the way.
If there are no doctors in the room, keep calm and here’s a video that shows you what to do!