Medical Marijuana for Seizure Disorders
Epilepsy is a condition in which certain brain cells become abnormally excitable and spontaneously discharge in an uncontrolled way, causing a seizure. In grand mal or generalized epilepsy, the abnormal cells are on both sides of the brain and the discharge produces conlsions (violent muscle spasms). In absence seizures, the generalized brain discharge causes a lapse of consciousness, but not conlsions. Partial seizures result from abnormal discharge in an isolated area of the brain and may occur with or without a change in consciousness.
Partial seizures with a change in consciousness, known as complex partial seizures, are caused by damage to the temporal or frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex. They were formerly known as psychomotor seizures because the symptoms also include motor activity (grimacing and repetitive mouth or hand movements are especially common). When over excitation is confined to a very small area, the patient with epilepsy may have a strange sensation of dé , vertigo, fear, or an odd smell without a source. This experience, known as an aura, may or may not be followed by a full complex partial seizure. Epilepsy is treated mainly with anticonlsant drugs, including carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), valproic acid (Depakote), phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), ethosuximide (Zarontin), and clonazepam (Klonopin). About 70% of patients get relief from one of these drugs, and another 10% are helped by some combination of them. Focal seizures and temporal lobe epilepsy, however, often respond poorly to these drugs. Furthermore, anticonlsants have many potentially serious side effects, including bone softening, anemia, swelling of the gums, double vision, hair loss, headaches, nausea, decreased libido, impotence, depression, and psychosis. Overdoses or idiosyncratic reactions may lead to loss of motor coordination, coma, and even death.
Although the anticonlsant properties of cannabis have been known since ancient times and were explored in the nineteenth century, this therapeutic use of the drug has been largely ignored in the past hundred years. Although the medical establishment is still showing little interest, more and more epilepsy sufferers are discovering the usefulness of cannabis.
* as always please be sure to consult with a health professional to assess the risks and rewards of adding medicinal cannabis to your treatment program.