Survey Finds Cannabis Use in Epilepsy

Australian patients turn to cannabis when antiepileptic drugs are intolerable or disease is uncontrolled

A survey conducted by the advocacy group Epilepsy Action Australia has found that 14% of patients with epilepsy have used cannabis products as a way to manage their seizures. The survey also found that among those with a history of using cannabis products, 90% of adults with epilepsy and 71% of parents or guardians of children with the disorder reported success in seizure management.

Published in Epilepsy & Behaviour, the survey questioned 976 respondents nationwide in Australia to determine cannabis use in epilepsy, the reasons for its use, and any perceived benefits self-reported by consumers or their caregivers.

The survey found that 15% of adults with epilepsy and 13% of parents or guardians of children with epilepsy were currently using, or had previously used, cannabis products to treat epilepsy. Across all respondents, the main reasons for trying cannabis products were to manage treatment-resistant epilepsy and to obtain a more-favorable adverse event profile compared with that of standard antiepileptic drugs. The number of past antiepileptic drugs was a significant predictor of medicinal cannabis use in both adults and children with epilepsy.

Coauthor Carol Ireland, CEO of Epilepsy Action Australia, said: “Cannabis products are often what people turn to when they have been unable to control their epilepsy with conventional medication. This highlights a growing need to educate consumers and health professionals on the use of cannabis by people with epilepsy, and to provide safe and timely access to cannabinoid medicine in order to lessen people’s reliance on illicit black-market products.”

Source: EurekAlert; March 9, 2017.