Can Marijuana Cause Seizures?

The relationship between marijuana and seizures is actually a highly positive one, and the drug has been documented as a treatment for epilepsy and seizures since the 1600’s.  Although some of the traditional applications for the plant have very minimal foundation in research, current efforts to investigate further medical usage for the plant have led to greater validation for many of the claims.

The benefits of marijuana in controlling muscles spasms have actually been one of the initial conditions that is approved for treatment with the drug.  While this has been limited to spasms resulting from MS and migraines, current research has shown that the plant holds great promise in controlling and preventing seizures from epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

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Understanding Causes of Seizures

While seizures can be considered a disorder on their own, these reactions are also symptoms of other physical disorders.  In many cases, neurological diseases can result in a seizure disorder, and other conditions can also cause the effects in patients.  Seizures can ultimately present from two directions of miscommunication in the body.

Neurological conditions, including epilepsy, exhibit seizures as a result of electrical impulses in the brain becoming confounded.  These electrical patterns are then interpreted by the muscles as information, although the stimulus does not follow the normal function of control.  The result is that the response in the muscles can range from extreme disorder to a tonic and rigid state.

Psychogenic seizures and symptomatic seizures can result from physical mechanisms that impact the impulses in the brain.  Although the presentation of the disorder can appear the same, this is actually operating in the opposite direction as an epileptic seizure.  In this case, the stimulus within the body sends confounding signals to the brain, which responds by trying to interpret the information and emit a response.  The result is similar to a signal feedback, although the physical response of a clonic-tonic state is the same.

Seizure Triggers

Any type of seizure may be triggered by the following:

  • Excess stimuli, including flashing lights, noises, and even electrical currents
  • Pain overload
  • Anxiety
  • Toxins that have built up within the body
  • Muscle spasms that become overwhelming
  • Lack of sleep
  • Nerve damage

Ultimately, a seizure is any state where the brain and the muscles of the body are no longer in communication with one another.  Although this may have a variety of causes, current treatments seek to calm the nerve response and regain synchronization between the brain and the body.

Marijuana as Medicine

With documented effects that include sedation and relaxation of the nerves and muscles, marijuana has been historically used to treat neurological conditions including epilepsy and seizures.  As one on the accepted conditions that this drug treats is migraines, further research into the application for seizures has been ongoing.  The recent studies have specifically investigated the impact of Tertahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) on seizure disorders in order to determine beneficial impacts.

THC has been used in case studies with epileptic patients in an effort to determine the performance of the drug as it compares to accepted forms of treatment.  The results showed that THC could be considered to have a positive effect, even in patients who had shown resistance to phenobarbitol.  This offered considerable justification for the use of the drug with these patients, and has also shown considerable promise with pediatric and juvenile patients with less than controllable disorders.

CBD research with seizures has only been within the past few decades, as this active compound was isolated more recently.  Immediate anticonvulsant effects were noted, but most remarkably, patients who underwent a 10 month trial for treatment were shown as greatly improved from overall effects of the condition.  This meant that seizure control was manageable with continued use of the drug.

Although both active compounds in marijuana have shown benefits for reducing the chance of seizures and controlling episodes that do occur, the general outcomes of the research indicate that CBD may play a larger part in this than THC.  For this reason, hybridization of medical strains that do have a greater CBD content are being strongly considered as condition specific.  This is expected to result in further studies to evaluate differences in application between the whole plant and isolated compounds.

A Question of Effects of Marijuana

Early documentation on the effects of marijuana have indicated that use of the drug stimulates brainwave activity, although the veracity of these contentions is questionable, both due to the limitations of a one person study, and the political climate at the time of the study.  However, more recent research indicates that the effects of marijuana on the production of serotonin are similar in mechanism to accepted anticonvulsant and anti-epileptic drugs.

The anti-seizure action of the plant appears to be a combination of impact on the muscles and on the brain.  As a result, marijuana is being considered as a highly valid treatment for seizure disorders that arise from both psychogenic and neurological causes.  This has also offered greater promise for patients who have not responded to other medications or forms of treatment.

Further records of the possibility that marijuana can cause rather than prevent seizures are present for studies with rats and mice.  Human case studies are considerably more limited, and standardization of the active components of the drug are undocumented.  The current attitude to these findings is that there may have been unknown mechanisms at work in these cases, or that higher THC content in the marijuana induced hallucinations in the rodents, to which muscular jerks were the exhibited response.  At present, there is greater support for marijuana as a beneficial medication for epilepsy and seizure disorders.

Although the use of the drug for these conditions has not been fully approved, it is being strongly considered, especially for cases that have not shown improvement with any other form of treatment.  The THC and CBD balance in relation to effect is still being further investigated, although continued positive results is likely to present as acceptance of medical marijuana in seizure disorders and other neurological conditions.