A new report has revealed the ‘remarkable’ and ‘life-changing’ impact of medical cannabis on ten patients with severe epilepsy.
The study, published by Drug Science, followed ten patients, aged two to 48-years-old, with intractable, childhood onset epilepsies.
It found that patients saw an average 97 percent reduction in seizures following treatment with cannabis medicines.
Four patients, who were prescribed Epidiolex, a licensed cannabis medicine in the UK, did not see any improvement in their condition until they were given the whole plant extract – suggesting a combination of CBD and THC based products was crucial in effectively managing the condition.
The carers of patients provided details of their age, diagnosis, previous and current antiepileptic drugs and number of seizures before and after taking cannabis based medicines, through the campaign group End our Pain. This data was then analysed by researchers at Drug Science.
As well as the clear improvement in their condition, the report also highlights the staggering financial barriers facing patients, with the average monthly cost of cannabis medicines more than £1,800.
Those families included in the study spend more than £20,000 a year on their children’s medicines – almost five times the price of the same medication in the Netherlands.
Lead author Rayyan Zafar told Cannabis Health: “The aim was to provide a scientific platform to convey the impact that medical cannabis treatment has had on children suffering from various forms of severe epilepsies. We wanted to assess primarily what the effects were on their seizure frequency as well as highlighting the extremely high costs of private prescriptions.”
He continued: “We saw a dramatic 97 percent average reduction across the cohort in seizure frequency following treatment with medical cannabis. These effects were seen using whole-plant extracts which combine THC and CBD therapy, which is not currently a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended treatment.
“Surprisingly the four patients that had the NICE recommended Epidiolex did not improve on this longer term and only saw beneficial effects once whole plant extracts were taken.”
Researchers conclude that the impact of cannabis medicines on these patients was ‘remarkable’ and often ‘life-changing’ and argue that the paper provides important evidence that should be taken into account, in addition to RCTs.
Dr Anne Katrin Schlag, head of research at Drug Science, said: “We think our findings make a very strong case for prescribing these medicines to this group of children and young adults who have been clearly shown to benefit from it.
“We are currently following up with a subsection of patients who for cost reasons, had to discontinue their medications, leading to their seizures returning, adding further validity to the current findings.
“We hope our report will contribute to make access to these medicines easier, and to allow for medicinal cannabis to become accessible on the NHS for these patients who are shown to benefit from it.”
Although randomised controlled trials (RTCs) are recommended to provide clinical evidence on the efficacy of unlicensed cannabis medicines, it would be ‘extremely difficult’ to conduct these in very ill patients, according to the report.
Those already taking cannabis medicines would be required to undergo a ‘wash out’ period to come off their current medication and run the risk of being given a placebo, which parents have warned could put their lives at risk.
“Whilst the paper has been received with great interest, we expect responses will also call for greater sample sizes, which we are in the process of doing, and the application of RCTs,” added Zafar and Dr Schlag.
“However, RCTs in these children suffering from severe epilepsies would be unethical and highly costly.”
Campaigner Hannah Deacon, whose son Alfie Dingley is one of a handful of patients to have an NHS prescription for medical cannabis – and who continues to support others to get access – welcomed the report, saying it must be accepted as evidence.
“It is clear from this study that whilst some doctors may believe medical cannabis is something to be frightened of, it is quite the contrary. These patients are having reduced seizures – sometimes none for days on end – and a hugely improved quality of life. This is evidence and must be accepted as such,” she said.
“The families who spend every day raising money to keep their children safe are in fact saving the NHS huge sums of money every day by keeping their children safe at home. I am tired of seeing this medicine blocked every day by different people who should be putting patients and their wellbeing at the centre of everything they do.
“It is time that we see safe access for these families and the many millions more in the UK.”
Professor Mike Barnes, who obtained the first license to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK, added that it was time others in the profession ‘embraced’ cannabis as a medicine.
He commented: “This paper shows the real efficacy of cannabis for children with epilepsy. Isn’t it now time for the paediatric neurology community to embrace this medicine and start to prescribe rather than hounding those that do.”
Fibromyalgia and cannabis: What does the latest research say?
Cannabis Health rounds up the latest research into the impact of cannabis on fibromyalgia.
There are thought to be around 1.5-2 million people in the UK currently living with fibromyalgia, a condition which causes chronic pain around the body, muscle stiffness and fatigue.
With no cure for the illness and symptoms severely affecting day-to-day life, research is focusing on therapeutic treatments – including medical cannabis.
In 2019, research published by Sagy, Schleider, Abu-Shackra and Novak showed that cannabis can help reduce fibromyalgia pain. The study of 367 patients found that pain intensity decreased when treated with medical marijuana, leading the team to state that “cannabis therapy should be considered to ease the symptom burden among those fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care”.
Chaves, Bittencourt and Pelegrini further supported these findings in October 2020, concluding that phytocannabinoids can serve as an affordable yet well-tolerated therapy for fibromyalgia symptom relief and quality of life improvements.
After the randomised controlled trial, the researchers went as far as to suggest that the cannabinoid therapy “could become an herbal or holistic choice of medicine for treating fibromyalgia as part of Brazil’s public healthcare system”.
A study in Italy, published in February 2020, also demonstrated that medical cannabis improves the efficacy of standard analgesic fibromyalgia treatments.
Researchers concluded: “This observational study shows that medical cannabis treatment offers a possible clinical advantage in fibromyalgia patients, especially in those with sleep dysfunctions.”
Published in the Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal, the study followed 102 fibromyalgia patients who had not responded well to conventional treatments. These participants were given two forms of medical cannabis oil extracts and researchers then collected data over a six-month period from patients, who self-reported fibromyalgia symptoms, how well they slept, and feelings of fatigue, as well as depression and anxiety levels.
While only a third of fibromyalgia patients reported reduced symptoms of the disease overall, cannabis did improve overall quality of life for some. Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety were found in around half of patients, too.
Despite fibromyalgia being more common amongst women – up to 90 per cent of sufferers are female – one study has found that cannabis may provide better pain relief for men.
The preclinical studies, conducted in 2016, compared the analgesic, subjective and physiological effects of active cannabis and inactive cannabis in male and female cannabis smokers under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions, and measured pain response through the Cold-Pressor Test.
Among men, active cannabis significantly decreased pain sensitivity relative to inactive cannabis. However, in women, active cannabis failed to decrease pain sensitivity relative to inactive, indicating that in cannabis smokers, men exhibit greater analgesia compared to women.
Researchers concluded: “Sex-dependent differences in cannabis’ analgesic effects are an important consideration that warrants further investigation when considering the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for pain relief.”
While further research is necessary, it is clear to see that medical cannabis can make a huge difference to treatment and relief of pain caused by fibromyalgia.
The best ways to take CBD for pain relief
CBD is becoming a popular tool for pain management, but with so many options out there, how do you know where to start?
With research constantly emerging to support the health benefits of CBD, more and more people are turning to the remedy – especially when it comes to alleviating pain and discomfort.
But how does it actually work? There are several ways to take CBD, each offering various pros and cons – we’ve rounded up some of the best methods.
In terms of pain relief, one of the most common methods is on the skin. Topical products like lotions and balms can be applied to skin over painful joints or bones and are particularly effective when used to relieve symptoms of arthritis.
However, research is still ongoing to determine whether these products deliver CBD below the skin. It is also difficult to pinpoint the exact effect CBD delivers – with many including common over-the-counter ingredients such as menthol, capsaicin and camphor, it’s uncertain whether the positive relief is solely due to CBD, or if these other ingredients play a significant role.
Several studies have hailed CBD oil as one of the most helpful methods when it comes to relieving pain symptoms, especially when combined with other forms such as topicals.
Medical nutritionist and health author Dr Sarah Brewer said: “Cannabidiol oil has direct effects on the endocannabinoid system in the brain. This enhances the effects of other brain chemicals, such as serotonin and anandamide, to reduce pain perception. It is also a powerful antioxidant which suppresses inflammation.”
Something to digest
Another well-known method for using CBD is by mouth. Whether in capsules, food or liquid, CBD that is swallowed is absorbed through the digestive tract.
Despite its popularity, this method does have its downfalls. Absorption is slow and dosing can be tricky due to the delayed onset of effect (it can take one to two hours to fully have an impact), plus many believe there isn’t enough research into how recent meals and other factors affect consumption.
But it has been widely reported that after a safe and effective dose has been established, capsules can work for daily use.
While it may not taste particularly pleasant, CBD can also be effectively absorbed directly into the bloodstream by holding liquid from a spray or dropper under the tongue. Research shows effects can the be felt in as little as a few minutes.
Give the vapors
CBD can also be inhaled via a vaporising, ‘vape’ pen. However, it’s possible that inhalation can carry unknown risks, particularly in those with respiratory issues and ailments such as inflammatory arthritis, and so isn’t widely recommended as a method for use.
With all methods, the common downfall is wavering dosage guidelines. Measures can change depending on a number of factors including age, weight and reason for use, however resounding guidance from experts is to ‘go low and slow’. Start with just a few milligrams twice a day, and if relief is inadequate after one week, increase the dose by the same amount, in small increments over several weeks if needed.
It’s clear that more research is needed to determine exact details into these methods, but this is only set to increase as the number of people turning to CBD for pain relief continues to grow.
CBD distillates, isolates & full spectrum – what’s the difference?
With so many CBD products on the market, do you know your distillates from your isolates? The experts at US manufacturer Fresh Bros break it down.
Las Vegas manufacturer Fresh Bros have nearly a decade of experience in the hemp industry.
But with so many products on the market Fresh Bros want to help consumers find the best products for their needs.
Here they explain the differences between CBD distillate, CBD isolate, and full-spectrum CBD products, as well as highlighting the key differences between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most researched compounds of all the known phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
CBD isolates are, unsurprisingly, isolated forms of CBD. During the extraction process, cannabidiols are removed or filtered out of the hemp plant except for CBD, resulting in a pure product.
CBD isolate is great for anyone who struggles with the original earthy flavors of other conventional oils or edibles, so if you’d prefer a high-potency CBD product that is tasty, doesn’t contain THC and or any “extra” cannabinoids that are found in a distillate or full-spectrum product — CBD isolate may be the way to go.
Unlike CBD isolate, CBD distillate (aka broad-spectrum CBD) typically contains an array of cannabinoids, terpenes, vitamins, and fatty acids that are very beneficial to the body. CBD distillate contains only negligible amounts of THC after going through special processing.
CBD isolate is an incredible healing source, of course, but there are hundreds of other beneficial cannabinoids found in the hemp plant besides CBD – cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) to name a couple.
Therefore, if you want to reap all of the potential benefits of CBD without the high, and you don’t mind the stronger taste, CBD distillate may be the best option for you.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain all cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant materials – including the naturally occurring small amount of THC in hemp.
Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC
The cannabis plant has more than 120 cannabinoids, but only a fraction of these have really been studied and marketed. Delta 9 THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and has received a lot of attention over the last few years.
However, consumers are slowly noticing the lesser-known Delta 8 THC (a less available double-bond isomer of the more common Delta 9 THC, also derived from hemp) due to its unique properties. The main differences between these two types of THC are found in the molecular structures of both, and it’s worth noting that Delta 8 THC is capable of producing a milder, more manageable, and more enjoyable high compared to Delta 9.
Delta 8 also has added therapeutic benefits and less severe and functionality-impairing side effects.
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