According to the CDC, an estimated 470,000 children in the USA have some form of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder that is characterized by an individual experiencing multiple seizures in their lifetime. People who are only lightly affected by it may only have a handful, while at its most severe people can have several per year.
By itself, epilepsy is not fatal, but it does pose safety issues for a child if they suffer a seizure when they are in the middle of an activity that could lead to an injury. Another issue is that there seems to be different kinds of epilepsy that a person can have, which leads to problems when trying to treat it. There is no cure, but there are various medications and treatments that can at least prevent seizure activity from happening, or lessen the severity of symptoms.
All medications or treatments will not work on every person with epilepsy, however. For some children who have Dravet Syndrome, a rare and severe type of epilepsy, some treatments don’t work at all. It manifests in children within the first year of their lives, and is characterized by prolonged and frequent seizures as well as other neurological issues.
That’s where cannabidiol (CBD) can help. New research and clinical trials are starting to show the potential for a special CBD-based medication called Epidiolex to significantly improve the lives of children who have Dravet Syndrome. The FDA first approved the use of Epidiolex by children who have Dravet in 2019. The decision came after a trial performed with almost 200 children who had found no help from four other medications. The results published at the end of the 14-week trial were as follows:
Seizures that included convulsions fell in all groups by over 40%.
All seizures fell by almost 50% in all groups.
Only child patients in the group who received the high-dose amount stopped taking Epidiolex because of the side effects, and of that group only 7% stopped.
For the side effects, those reported included losing their appetite, feeling sleepy, and having a fever or diarrhea. Serious side effects only occured in 20% to 25% of child patients in the trial. It is worth noting that not all children saw any benefit to Epidiolex, likely due to the issue mentioned above with there being no universal treatment option that helps all people with epilepsy.
Other clinical trials have looked at the use of CBD for all children who have epilepsy, beyond just those with Dravet Syndrome. Several of them have shown that CBD-enriched cannabis extracts have been helpful to children who have epilepsy that previously proved resistant to other medications or treatments.
While CBD-based medications for epilepsy have been approved by the FDA, there is still a lot of research to be done to fully understand how it works, and how much it helps. It also isn’t clear how much basic CBD supplements like CBD gummies can help along with other treatments. The clinical trials that have been conducted show its promise, but they have been smaller scale. So far, approval for CBD use for children with epilepsy comes when the child has not received any benefit from other treatments as a last resort.
If you have a child with epilepsy, and you are not satisfied by how much their current or former treatment options have provided to your child, you can ask a doctor about CBD medications. After a consultation with them or a specialist, you may find that a trial period with something like Epidiolex winds up providing the most help for your child.