Dravet syndrome is an epileptic condition affecting about one in 20,000 to 40,000 people. A cannabidiol-based treatment is FDA-approved to help relieve symptoms of this rare, genetic disorder – one of the latest ways the cannabis plant is being used as a legitimate, prescribed modality.
A study by New England Journal of Medicine showed that, when added to an anti-seizure regimen, a cannabidiol-based drug was helpful in reducing the frequency of convulsive seizures in children age 2 and older. This is hopeful news for parents of children with Dravet syndrome and some other seizure disorders.
This condition begins in infancy and lasts a lifetime. Once known variously as polymorphic epilepsy in infancy (PMEI), epilepsy with polymorphic seizures, or severe myoclonic epilepsy in infancy (SMEI), it is almost always caused by a gene mutation, but it is not necessarily inherited. The first seizure usually occurs before age one and is often preceded by a fever.
What makes the condition difficult for parents is the fact that babies with Dravet appear to develop normally during the onset of seizures and may have normal MRI and EEG tests for a while. Yet, over time, the seizures continue growing in strength and frequency. Affected children usually develop some degree of developmental delay and a crouched or unsteady gait (way of walking). They endure prolonged (10 minutes or more) or short seizures while awake or asleep. These can be triggered by stress, extreme temperatures, flashing lights, or no discernible cause.
It is usually not possible to eliminate seizure activity, but control is possible with multiple medications. Early intervention can help improve many children’s developmental abilities, as well as prolong life expectancy.
Cannabidiol for Dravet syndrome
A pure, oral solution of cannabidiol, or CBD, called Epidiolex was approved by the FDA in 2018 and has been shown to reduce the number of seizures. One study of 120 children and teens with Dravet shows that 43 percent treated with this drug saw the number of seizures cut in half or more.
It is important to note that Epidiolex is derived from medical quality cannabidiol oil. It is different from over-the-counter cannabidiol, or CBD, that is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Parents of children with epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and other seizure disorders should not try over-the-counter CBD oil for seizures.
Dravet syndrome is just one of many uses for which medical cannabis and cannabidiol therapy can be useful. To see whether it is right for your particular condition, contact our office and schedule a cannabis in Laytonsville appointment with Dr. Sheila Brush. Just call 240-477-8158.