The study aims to investigate: (1) the prevalence of cannabis among epileptic patients seen at Mansoura University Hospital, (2) serum levels and gene expression of cytokines in epilepsy patients and the controls. and (3) the possibility that cannabis use affects the cytokine levels in epilepsy patients, triggering its future use in treatment. We recruited 440 epilepsy patients and 200 controls matched for age, gender, and ethnicity. Of the epileptic patients, 37.5% demonstrated lifetime cannabis use with a mean duration of 15 ± 73 years. Serum levels of interleukin IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), were analyzed and gene expression analysis was conducted only for those cytokines that were different between groups in the serum analysis. The "Epilepsy-only" patients had significantly higher serum and mRNA levels of IL-1α, β, IL-2,6,8, and TNF-α compared to the controls and the "Cannabis+Epilepsy" group (p = 0.0001). IL-10 showed significantly lower levels in the "Epilepsy-only" patients compared to the controls and "Cannabis+Epilepsy" (p = 0.0001). Cannabis use is prevalent among epilepsy patients. Epilepsy is characterized by a pro-inflammatory state supported by high serum and gene expression levels. Cannabis users demonstrated significantly lower levels of inflammatory cytokines compared to epilepsy non-cannabis users which might contribute to its use in the treatment of resistant epilepsy.
Keywords: anticonvulsant drugs; cannabis; epilepsy; inflammatory cytokines; purified cannabidiol (CBD); seizures; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); treatment-resistant epilepsy.