Cannabis use in people with epilepsy revealed: Australian survey

March 9, 2017, University of Sydney

People with epilepsy resort to cannabis products when antiepileptic drug side-effects are intolerable and epilepsy uncontrolled.

The first Australian nationwide survey on the experiences and opinions of medicinal cannabis use in people with has revealed that 14 per cent of people with epilepsy have used cannabis products as a way to manage seizures.

The study showed that of those with a history of cannabis product use, 90 per cent of adults and 71 per cent of parents of children with epilepsy reported success in managing seizures after commencing using cannabis products.

Published in Epilepsy & Behaviour, the Epilepsy Action Australia study, in partnership with The Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney, surveyed 976 respondents to examine cannabis use in people with epilepsy, reasons for use, and any perceived benefits self-reported by consumers (or their carers).

The survey revealed:

  • 15 per cent of adults with epilepsy and 13 per cent of parents/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 favourable side-effect profile compared to standard antiepileptic drugs.
  • The number of past was a significant predictor of medicinal cannabis use in both adults and children with epilepsy.

"This survey provides insight into the use of cannabis products for epilepsy, in particular some of the likely factors influencing use, as well as novel insights into the experiences of and attitudes towards medicinal cannabis in people with epilepsy in the Australian community," said lead author Anastasia Suraev from The Lambert Initiative.

"Despite the limitations of a retrospective online survey, we cannot ignore that a significant proportion of adults and children with epilepsy are using cannabis-based products in Australia, and many are self-reporting considerable benefits to their condition.

"More systematic clinical studies are urgently needed to help us better understand the role of cannabinoids in epilepsy," she said.

Co-author of the paper Carol Ireland, CEO of Epilepsy Action Australia, who was recently appointed to the Australian Government's new Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis, 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" she said.

Explore further: Australia grants first cannabis farm licence

Related Stories

Australia grants first cannabis farm licence

March 8, 2017
Australia's first medical marijuana farm received its growers' licence Wednesday, opening up domestic production of the drug for people seeking relief from serious illnesses.

Some psychotic disorders may be induced by drugs designed to combat effects of epilepsy

August 9, 2016
Today Brain publishes a new study indicating that antiepileptic drugs designed to reduce seizures, may also induce psychotic disorders in some patients.

German lawmakers green-light medical cannabis use

January 19, 2017
German lawmakers on Thursday legalised cannabis use for medical purposes for people with serious diseases such as certain cancers and multiple sclerosis.

US doctors call for more study of pot for seizures (Update)

March 3, 2014
A medical group of epilepsy experts on Monday called on the U.S. government to reconsider classifying marijuana as a dangerous drug so its impact on seizures can be studied.

Poor children with epilepsy may face social hurdles

November 7, 2016
In a population-based Canadian study of children with epilepsy, each of whom had access to universal health care, those from poor families had the same medical course and remission rate as their wealthier counterparts, but ...

Medicinal Cannabis—harms or benefits? Who decides?

December 21, 2016
Wellington researchers are calling for doctors to be more involved in the debate around cannabis as a medicine.

Recommended for you

In a break with dogma, myelin boosts neuron growth in spinal cord injuries

May 23, 2018
Recovery after severe spinal cord injury is notoriously fraught, with permanent paralysis often the result. In recent years, researchers have increasingly turned to stem cell-based therapies as a potential method for repairing ...

Memory molecule limits plasticity by calibrating calcium

May 23, 2018
The brain has an incredible capacity to support a lifetime of learning and memory. Each new experience fundamentally alters the connections between cells in the brain called synapses. To accommodate synaptic alterations, ...

New type of vertigo identified

May 23, 2018
Neurologists have identified a new type of vertigo with no known cause, according to a study published in the May 23, 2018, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Changes to specific MicroRNA involved in development of Lou Gehrig's disease

May 23, 2018
A new Tel Aviv University study identifies a previously unknown mechanism involved in the development of Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The research focuses on a specific microRNA whose levels ...

Study confirms that men and women tend to adopt different navigation strategies

May 23, 2018
When navigating in a known environment, men prefer to take shortcuts to reach their destination more quickly, while women tend to use routes they know. This is according to Alexander Boone of UC Santa Barbara in the US who ...

Mechanisms of harmful overhydration and brain swelling

May 22, 2018
We are all familiar with the drawbacks of dehydration, but we rarely hear about the harmful effects of overhydration. For one, excess fluid accumulation can lead to dangerously low sodium levels in the blood or hyponatremia—a ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.