Cannabis, More Than the Euphoria: Its Therapeutic Use in Drug-Resistant Epilepsy

Cureus. 2020 Jul 20;12(7):e9299. doi: 10.7759/cureus.9299.


A significant number of epilepsy patients are refractory to conventional antiepileptic drugs. These patients experience considerable neurocognitive impairments that impact their quality of life and ability to function independently. This need for alternative treatment has generated increased interest in cannabis use as a therapeutic option in these patients. This review seeks to analyze data presented on the pharmacology, safety, and efficacy of cannabis use in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) and to propose any future recommendations regarding its use. PubMed was used to retrieve all published studies and articles which evaluated the use of cannabis in epilepsy. The two foremost phytocannabinoids of cannabis showing anticonvulsant properties are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Due to the psychoactive properties of THC, most studies focused on CBD use in these patients. The use of CBD as an adjunct resulted in decreased seizure frequency, and secondary benefits observed included improvement in mood, alertness and sleep. Adverse events (AEs) reported were drowsiness, diarrhea, increased transaminases and worsening of seizures. It can safely be concluded that there is a significant benefit in DRE patients using CBD as adjunctive therapy. However, further controlled and adequately powered studies are needed to assess the pharmacokinetics and impact of the long-term use of cannabis.

Keywords: adverse effects; cannabidiol; cannabis; drug-resistant epilepsy; epilepsy; medical marijuana; pharmacology; therapeutic use.

Publication types

  • Review