The final frontier in the new generation of cannabis as a medicine – Testimonials from families that have used cannabis to fight seizures in their epileptic children and observed amazing results
About 400,000 children in the U.S. have epilepsy. Many are controlled with heavy harmful medications and some still suffer from frequent seizures. Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological problem. The disorder is often diagnosed in the childhood years and can be particularly difficult to treat with medication or lifestyle changes. Imagine the horror of watching your little child convulsing on the floor and being unable to help in any way.
However, one type of drug has been catching the attention of frustrated parents all across the nation: Cannabidiol, (abbreviated to CBD). CBD is a cannabis compound made from the oils of a marijuana plant, but does not give users the feeling of being “high”. It is known to have several medical uses, one of these being the cessation of seizure activity in epileptic patients. In a study conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals with 137 individuals, seizure activity was decreased by 54% after 12 weeks using a drug that was 99% CBD (Project CBD, 2016). According to The Epilepsy Foundation, the FDA has given some epilepsy treatment centers the right to use this drug for a limited number of patients with particularly difficult cases. This is being deemed as “compassionate use”.
Other parents who may live in areas that have not made medical marijuana legal have taken to driving hundreds of miles in an attempt to find their child some relief. In Southern California, Ray Mirzabegian has become the “go-to” for individuals looking to treat epilepsy with CBD, a business that hits close to home for himself. His daughter Emily had her first seizure when she was around five months old. Her symptoms progressed quickly and by the age of four, she was having hundreds of seizures each day. At one point, Emily had been fluent in both the English and Armenian languages; however, at the age of six she stopped speaking either of them. This was thought to be caused by the significant damage to her still-developing brain from the continuous seizure activity. Over the years she was prescribed 12 separate medications. Not only did they not work, but they caused several unfavorable side effects as well. Mirzabegian described her side effects as “depression, vision loss, insomnia and lethargy that left her sitting on the couch in a vegetative state.” Typically, these are not things that a parent expects to see in such a young, vibrant, child. The family tried home remedies ranging from special diets to acupuncture, to no avail. One night, Mirzabegian was watching the Discovery Channel and learned about a father who gave his epileptic son medical marijuana. He was fascinated by this and soon went to the doctor complaining of chronic headaches in order to get a script for the drug. While these first strains he gave Emily weren’t effective, he soon learned of a family in Colorado, the Stanleys. They were growing a special type of marijuana that was thought to treat seizure activity called Charlotte’s Web. He decided to give it another shot, and was absolutely astounded by the results.
After being on a three-times-daily treatment plan for two years, Emily was off all of her prescription medications and was down to only four seizures per month. Her quality of life was improving quickly and as Mirzabegian put it, “she was waking up to life for the first time since she was an infant.” He was so convinced by these results that he decided to go into business with the Stanleys. He now has his own office and gives his daughter oil from the plants that he grows himself.
Among his patients was the mother of a severely disabled 5-year-old boy, who only weighed 20 pounds and was looking for relief from his crippling symptoms. There was also a single mother living in fear of her son’s doctor reporting her to child protective services. Her son had intractable epilepsy and she described the impact of the delays by saying, “There’s no quality of life. This is like living death.” Mirzabegian talks with each family, telling them stories about his own daughter and offering them emotional support, while also recommending that they continue to consult with a neurologist to monitor their child’s symptoms. The last family presented was the Kings, whose son Emeric had his first seizure at age four. After his monthly regimen, his mother stated that he was more present and much more aware of daily life. She says it’s as if he is waking up from a groggy sleep that he had been in for several years (TIME, 2016).
While everyone’s results are varied, there seems to be a common trend when researching the use of CBD which is, progressive results with little side effects. Personally, I am a nursing student at a private Christian university in Indiana. Even though this would be considered an extremely conservative area, my professors speak freely on the many benefits CBD have for our patients. When there is significant evidence that an item helps such desperate families with severely ill children, it is impossible to ignore. The medical marijuana industry shows no signs of slowing down; in fact, it seems to be gaining steam at an increasingly rapid pace. We can look for this to be a revolutionary go-to drug for many common ailments.
For a great documentary on the subject, watch “A Journey for Oil” presented by TIME’s film company, Red Border Films.