Medical Marijuana as a Treatment for Epilepsy
In spite of the many debates that have arisen in regards to marijuana, few people have been able to deny the facts that the drug has been able to bring relief to millions. Even before modern medicine came on the scene, people were aware of how well the drug could ease the pain of patients suffering from cancer, HIV, or similar diseases.
Since the legalization of marijuana in nearly half of the states in the country, more studies have been started to find out the full extent of the benefits of the drug to treat a wide range of health conditions. One such study, conducted by the New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, revealed an additional benefit of marijuana that was not expected; a drop in the number of seizures experienced by severe epileptics. According to Live Science, "The participants took an extract made from cannabis plants daily for 12 weeks, and during that time, the number of seizures they experienced fell by an average of 54 percent."
This has turned out to be promising news for epileptics, but researchers are quick to point out that more study is needed to determine the full extent of the benefits.
Because epilepsy is a chronic disorder that affects millions, medical professionals have been on a search for a cure for many generations. The recurrent attacks can alter a person's consciousness, cause convulsions, and interfere in motor activities in various ways. Medical experts describe it as the simultaneous stimulation of large areas of the brain, which the body cannot control.
To date, there has been no definitive cure or treatment to help epileptics diminish their suffering, but studies have been ongoing for years. Part of the reason it has been found to work so well in epileptics are the numerous cannabinoid compounds found in the drug, each with its own variation of convulsant and anticonvulsant properties.
People throughout history have recognized the medicinal value of these properties; records have discovered that even as far back as the 15th century, medical scientists were aware of the cannabinoids in marijuana. It has only been in recent decades that human trials have been implemented to try to determine the extent of relief that can be achieved for epileptics.
Getting the results wasn't always easy to take. Reports showed that there were some major side effects that patients had to deal with, many participants actually had to drop out prematurely because of the challenges that the side effects posed. According to one report, "The drug wasn't always easy to take, however, and 12 patients stopped taking it due to side effects, the researchers said. The types of side effects seen in more than 10 percent of the patients included drowsiness (21 percent), diarrhea (17 percent), tiredness (17 percent) and decreased appetite (16 percent)."
Still, even with these negative drawbacks, the potential for relief in epileptics is proving to be leading to finally having something that could give the millions of epileptics a more promising future on the horizon.
More Study is Needed
Because the drug has been illegal for some time, medical research on its beneficial properties has been strongly discouraged over the years. However, now that it has become legal in 23 states in the country with the potential for more states adopting it in the future, more doors to research opportunities have been open.
Before this study, the reports on the medical advantages of marijuana were merely anecdotal; few formal studies on using the drug to treat seizures had been conducted. Today, however, the results of this particular study does not encourage people to run out and buy marijuana as a treatment possibility but is well on its way to finding a reasonable, affordable, ad positive treatment in the near future.
Clearly, more study is still needed on the use of the drug to treat epileptics, but the tests are being referred to as a success nevertheless. So much so that the Epilepsy Foundation has also weighed in on the matter. Their comments bring out the urgency of finding a treatment to improve the lives of epileptics: "Existing therapies have real side effects both known and unknown, and, just as there are risks with any treatment, every day without seizure control is a risk to life. Every seizure is a possible opportunity lost to live, learn, and grow."
While the Drug Enforcement Agency has yet to take this new information into consideration, or to declare it a viable treatment for epileptics, the foundation is determined to push ahead, unwilling to wait the additional five years for more studies to be completed. Their concerns are for those epileptics that may lose their lives or otherwise suffer injury as the result of seizure while they wait.
It is apparent that the push to legalize the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for epileptics is merely one among many on the use of the drug to bring relief from the pain and suffering from a wide range of afflictions.