A new Australian survey on cannabis use in people with epilepsy shows that patients tend to turn to cannabis products when antiepileptic drug side-effects are intolerable and their epilepsy is uncontrolled.
The study is published in the journal Epilepsy & Behaviour.
The survey reveals that about 14 percent of epilepsy patients self-report having used or are currently using cannabis products as a way to manage seizures. Of those with a history of cannabis product use, 90 percent of adults and 71 percent of parents of children with epilepsy reported success in managing seizures after beginning their use of cannabis products.
“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,” said lead author Anastasia Suraev.
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 caregivers).
The survey revealed the following:
- 15 percent of adults with epilepsy and 13 percent 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 favorable side-effect profile compared to standard antiepileptic drugs.
- The number of past antiepileptic drugs 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 Suraev from The Lambert Initiative.
“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 that “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.
Source: University of Sydney