Childhood is a time of exploration when an unknown world jumps out of every hole and from behind every tree. It’s these unknowns that also can make childhood so scary. You don’t know why the sky is thundering, why your mom is so dark-eyed and angry today, or why you keep feeling sick. You don’t know why you are hurting. For children with epilepsy, every day can be a painful mystery, where your own brain is hurting your body. And for parents of children with epilepsy, every day is one where you ask for help for your child. Today, though, it seems like that help’s not just imminent — it already exists. That help is cannabis oil.
Cannabis oil (also known as Cannabidiol or CBD oil) has been shown to be effective for children who have tried everything else. It reduces seizures and allows the child to develop and live a normal life. It’s non-addictive and has not been shown to have many behavioral implications. Right now, though, medicine is teetering on the edge of accepting CBD oil, mostly due to old prejudices about marijuana. For the sake of children, those can’t be allowed to get in the way of science. There needs to be strict and rigorous testing, free from prejudice, to make sure that CBD oil is safe and effective.
Understanding Pediatric Epilepsy
There are a lot of reasons why a child may be born with epilepsy, or develop it shortly after birth. The broad causes stem from brain wiring or a chemical imbalance that impacts the transmission of signals between brain cells. Disease, tumors, poisoning from materials like lead-based paint, and even injuries can lead to epilepsy. In children, it can also be caused by low oxygen during pregnancy or due to other complications while the child is in utero.1 These complications can be natural and not anyone’s fault. Feeling guilt over the fate of your child is extremely human, but isn’t necessary, nor is it helpful. What is helpful is working with your child to live their best possible life.
Most children with epilepsy can manage the symptoms, the most visible of which are seizures. These can be dangerous, but they can also be in many cases dealt with quickly and without damage. However, there are more severe symptoms. Grand mal seizures can cause brain damage, but it doesn’t end there. Some epileptics — and this is especially prevalent in children — can have “invisible symptoms.”2 There have been cases of children who consistently undergo minor epileptic shocks while asleep. They are known to sometimes just stop and stare, or become easily confused, like a stroke patient. This can be very traumatic for both children and their parents.
A child with a chronic disease can have a difficult childhood. They might be made fun of, and even if they’re not, they might feel like an outsider. It gets worse for children with continual symptoms. For many, epilepsy can stunt mental development, as the brain literally can’t stop itself from convulsing enough to learn and grow. This extra cruelty only adds to the suffering of the child and their loved ones. Even worse, traditional treatments like pharmaceuticals or electroshock therapy don’t work for many children, or only work temporarily, or, perhaps worst of all, tamp down the seizures but dull the brain, robbing the child of her personality. The cures seem, at best, pyrrhic.
The Role of CBD Oil in Epilepsy
Cannabis is a complicated organism, comprising of nearly 60 different compounds. The most famous is THC, the active ingredient, and the one that’s known for its psychoactive reactions. But CBD is also an important ingredient and has different qualities than THC. In most commercial marijuana, THC is far more active than CBD, but many growers are producing strains that have CBD and basically zero THC. These strands have shown to be excellent for medicinal purposes.
CBD has shown to be a non-convulsive compound. Simply put, it reduces the number of seizures a patient suffers. This means that children with continuous seizures will have a chance to let their brains develop and grow, and children with more common symptoms can worry less about seizing.3 The short-term impacts are evident.4 So why isn’t this being used more often? Why isn’t more research being done on it?
The main reason, of course, is that due to political and cultural pressure, many scientists don’t want to study cannabis. There is also a fear that using CBD will have long-term psychological effects. This is a strange argument for a few reasons.
- CBD is non-psychoactive. It actually lowers the psychoactive effects of THC in mixed strands. It doesn’t act on CB1 receptors, which is why, unlike THC, it isn’t mind-altering.5
- There is zero evidence that CBD is addictive.
- There is zero evidence that it has long-term negative mental repercussions.
- There is, however, absolute evidence that leaving epilepsy untreated does have serious short and long-term impacts on a human’s mental health. Beside literally altering the brain’s chemistry, inability to pay attention can have social and economic effects throughout a person’s life.
- Many traditional medicines and cures are shown to alter personality.
Why Wait? More Research About Cannabidiol Could Bring Needed Relief to Children with Epilepsy
It’s clear that CBD oil is a worthwhile area for study. Of course, we’re not advising that all parents of epileptic children should rush out to use it, but it’s worth doing personal research where the laws permit it. More importantly, it’s time to stop being afraid of doing large-scale institutional research. This is an area that can make a real difference in the lives of thousands of children and their loved ones. CBD oil can help a brain live a healthy life. It’s not just worth looking into — it’s a moral duty to our children.
- “What is epilepsy?” CURE Epilepsy, accessed December 3, 2015, http://www.cureepilepsy.org/aboutepilepsy/what_is_epilepsy.asp. ↩
- “Epilepsy — Often an invisible disease,” Living with Cerebral Palsy, accessed December 3, 2015, http://www.livingwithcerebralpalsy.com/epilepsyinvisible.php. ↩
- “Parents of Severely Epileptic Girl Turn to Illegal CBD Oil,” Reset.me, November 10, 2015, http://reset.me/story/parents-of-severely-epileptic-girl-turn-to-illegal-cbd-oil/. ↩
- “CURE Promotes Research on CBD-Rich Marijuana,” CURE Epilepsy, accessed December 3, 2015, http://www.cureepilepsy.org/research/cbd-and-epilepsy.asp. ↩
- “5 Must-Know Facts About Cannabidiol (CBD),” Leaf Science, February 23, 2015, http://www.leafscience.com/2014/02/23/5-must-know-facts-cannabidiol-cbd/. ↩