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Marijuana Could Treat Severe Epilepsy, New Study Finds

Dec 05, 2016 04:42 AM EST

A compound found in marijuana could help in treating patients with epilepsy.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found that cannabidiol oil (CBD), a compound found in cannabis, has reduced the frequency and severity of seizures in children and adults with severe, intractable epilepsy. The researchers presented 11 abstracts or research findings at the American Epilepsy Society's 70th Annual Meeting.

"It is encouraging that both frequency and severity of seizures appear to improve in the majority of patients in our study, patients who have limited treatment options," Dr. Jerzy P. Szaflarski, a professor of neurology and director of the UAB Epilepsy Center, said in a statement. "Our research adds to the evidence that CBD may reduce the frequency of seizures, but we also found that it appears to decrease the severity of seizures, which is a new finding."

Cannabidiol is one of hundreds of active chemicals in the cannabis plant and was administered in the study as an oily liquid. According to Live Science, while CBD affects the brain, it does not produce euphoria or intoxication. CBD oil was associated with an improvement in mood, which is independent of the extent of seizure reduction, the researchers said.

In the study, a CBD medicine was tested on 81 patients (42 children and 39 adults) who experienced four or more seizures per month. After one month of therapy, 68 percent of the patients had experienced more than 25 percent decrease in seizure frequency and 58 percent had a greater than 50 percent reduction. About 9 percent of the patients were seizure-free after the six-month study.

"CBD oil may have overall positive effects on mood, which should be further investigated in patients with epilepsy and other chronic conditions in controlled studies," the researchers said in the same statement.

But according to Szaflarski, not all patients benefited from the CBD treatment and a few even got worse. According to Live Science, Szaflarski believes more research is needed to determine why CBD helps some patients and not others.

In 2014, a law authorizing the study of Cannabidiol oil to treat seizure disorders called Carly's Law was passed, and the law designated UAB to carry out the research, Alabama News reports. The state of Alabama has passed legislation to decriminalize the use of Cannabidiol oil for people with certain medical conditions.

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