Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers, in collaboration with the Realm of Caring Foundation, have gathered participant-reported data that found CBD may reduce the adverse effects associated with anti-seizure medications and improve quality of life for those with epilepsy.

The US observational study was aimed at collecting participant-reported data to better understand the impact CBD products may have on people with epilepsy. Particularly, the researchers focused on those using artisanal (non-pharmaceutical) CBD.

The data was gathered between April 2016 and July 2021 from 418 participants with 49% aged 18 and over and included 71 adults with epilepsy who used artisanal CBD products and 209 caregivers of patients who did so. 

The control group included 29 adults with epilepsy and 109 caregivers who were considering the use of CBD products. All participants completed a web-based survey and follow-up surveys at three-month intervals for 14 months.

Compared to the control group, artisanal CBD users reported 13% lower epilepsy medication-related adverse side effects, 21% greater psychological health satisfaction, 19% lower anxiety and 17% lower depression and better sleep. 

Some 13% of caregivers of patients using CBD products also reported 13% less burden and stress compared to the control group.

John Hopkins University School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Ryan Vandrey

John Hopkins University School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Ryan Vandrey spoke to the findings published in the journal Epilepsy and Behaviour with News Medical Life Sciences. 

He said: “The potential of CBD products for the treatment of seizure disorders goes beyond seizure control alone. In our study, we saw clinically significant improvements in anxiety, depression and sleep when patients with epilepsy initiated therapeutic use of artisanal CBD products.”

In the control group, 27 participants also started using CBD products later in the study and then reported improvements in physical and psychological health. 

The study focused on artisanal CBD as Epidyolex, an FDA-approved formulation of CBD, is only used to treat three rare types of seizure disorders, meaning patients with other forms of epilepsy often seek alternative pathways for cannabis-based medicines. 

Importantly, while 79% of participants did not report any side effects for their CBD use, 11% reported drowsiness, 4% high or prohibitive cost, 4% worsening epilepsy symptoms, 3% concerns of illegality and 1% worries about drug interactions as side effects. 

Vandrey concluded that further research is needed to understand how the findings can be applied to help people with epilepsy, and that patients should consult with their primary care physician before trying CBD products.

He added: “Our hope is to do controlled clinical trials to better inform clinical decision making and identify specific formulations that are most beneficial to patients.”

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Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...

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