A judge checks on a marijuana sample during a judging session at Uruguay's second
Cannabis being tested as treatment for epilepsy Reuters

Scientists are looking at the potential use of cannabis to treat and potentially cure severe forms of epilepsy.

The medical benefits of medical marijuana for neurological conditions like epilepsy are highly debated.

Examining the potential use of the drug, a series of articles in the journal Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy, looks at its potential use for treating the syndrome.

Edward Maa, from the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Denver Health in Denver, Colorado, looks at a case study of a child with Dravet syndrome – a very severe form of epilepsy.

In the case, a mother provided her child with a strain of medical marijuana high in Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) known as Charlotte's Web.

When used with the child's normal drug regime, seizures dropped from 50 convulsions per day to just two or three per month.

Another article in the series looked at current evidence surrounding medical marijuana and its use for epilepsy and other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

"There is a critical need for new therapies, especially for childhood-onset treatment-resistant epilepsies that impair quality of life and contribute to learning and behavioural disorders."

Peadiatric research director Maria Roberta Cilio

While THC and CBD display anticonvulsive properties in animals, the research was not carried out in acute animal models and the data was limited when looking at chronic recurrent seizures.

Recent studies also suggest that cannabis strains high in CBD and THC are more effective at seizure control, but the data was flawed.

Maria Roberta Cilio, director of research in paediatric epilepsy at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco, said the development of new drugs for epilepsy is paramount.

"There is a critical need for new therapies, especially for childhood-onset treatment-resistant epilepsies that impair quality of life and contribute to learning and behavioural disorders," she said. "Rigorous investigation of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana or individual components such as CBD are necessary for patients with epilepsy before any conclusion is made."

Orrin Devinsky, Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Centre at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, added: "While cannabis has been used to treat epilepsy for centuries, data from double-blind randomised, controlled trials of CBD or THC in epilepsy is lacking.

"Randomised controlled studies of CBD in targeted epilepsy groups, such as patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, are in the planning stages."