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Breakthrough: Medical Cannabis and Severe Epilepsy

BREAKTHROUGH: MEDICINAL CANNABIS AND SEVERE EPILEPSY 

A major scientific breakthrough finds that a type of medicinal cannabis significantly reduces convulsive seizures in children with a severe form of epilepsy 

By Imogen Crump, University of Melbourne 

 A form of medicinal cannabis has for the first time been shown to reduce seizures in a severe form of epilepsy, with a few children now seizure free after taking it. A study of children suffering from Dravet syndrome, a severe epilepsy that begins in infancy with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality rate, found that 5 per cent of subjects reported that seizures stopped after being treated with cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive form of cannabis. The bud of a Cannabis sativa flower coated with trichomes bearing cannabidiol and other cannabinoids. Picture: Wikimedia Overall 43 per cent of children with the syndrome had a 50 per cent reduction in seizure frequency with cannabidiol. 

An international team of researchers including University of Melbourne Chair of Paediatric Neurology and Austin Health Director of Paediatrics, Professor Ingrid Scheffer, studied cannabidiol for the treatment of seizures. The results are published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Known as CBD, cannabidiol is a natural compound found in cannabis seeds, stalks and flowers, that does not have the psychoactive properties of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. “This is a major scientific breakthrough,” says Professor Scheffer. “It’s the first scientific evidence that cannabidiol works. There have been anecdotal reports in the past, and people with firm beliefs that it works in epilepsy, but this is the first time it’s been proven.” 

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