New Form Of Medical Marijuana Helps Treat Kids With Epilepsy

John Houck

A new strain of marijuana containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, may be the answer to treating various medical conditions, including epilepsy, schizophrenia, and cancer. Scientists think this new form has some very important health benefits, while not getting the user high.

Marijuana is made up of two major substances, cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The two chemicals have a specific and simple relationship in the marijuana plant: the higher the CBD, the lower the THC, and vice versa.

The THC in cannabis creates the infamous mind-altering effects, not CBD. With a low amount of THC, the new form of high-CBD marijuana is ideal for medical purposes, especially since most patients do not want the high associated with THC.

Since a user does not get "buzzed" by the substance, marijuana containing high levels of CBD has helped alleviate many of the political, legal, and medical concerns of legalizing the plant for medical purposes. With a lower threat of criticism and potential legal ramifications, this has encouraged many cannabis growers to produce marijuana plants with high levels of CBD specifically for the medical community.

Martin Lee, the director of a nonprofit organization named Project CBD, believes CBD can help change the negative perception of medical cannabis, according to a Washington Post report.

"CBD has been a game-changer for medical marijuana. Its safety and lack of psychoactivity undermines any argument that it should be illegal. It's really shifted the national discussion on this issue."

For most of his young life, Jackson Leyden had no health issues and acted like most 8-year-old kids. Yet, in 2011, he suddenly started having multiple seizures everyday. While most were minor, lasting only a few seconds, some episodes were severe enough to cause collapse and injury. From 2011 to 2013, Jackson was in the hospital nearly four dozen times.

Multiple doctors tried to help, prescribing various medications, but nothing seemed to stop the seizures. In 2014, Jackson's parents tried something new – medical marijuana.

Jackson's mother, Lisa, was amazed by the results.

"Within a few days, he was having hardly any seizures. I was shocked."

In recent years, scientists have seen great potential in CBD, especially with epilepsy research. A recent study conducted by New York University neurologists Orrin Devinsky and Daniel Friedman found patients taking CBD had 39 percent fewer seizures than others who continued their traditional drug routine.

While much more research is needed to determine if high-CBD cannabis does make a difference, many patients are eager to get their hands on it.

"If other drugs don't work, it's certainly reasonable to try this," Devinsky said.

Other potential medical benefits of cannabis containing high levels of CBD include relief of symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. While most research has been done on lab mice, a German study four years ago found giving CBD to schizophrenic patients significantly reduced hallucinations and episodes of confusion.

The treatment of cancer is another area where the new strain of marijuana might help. Researchers Sean McAllister and Pierre Desprez with the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute discovered CBD can effectively block cancer cells from metastasizing.

Even though the high-CBD marijuana strain does not get a user high, it is still illegal under federal law. As a result, very restrictive laws limit most research of the drug and discourage many scientists from even trying. According to Devinsky, getting government approval to study CBD for epilepsy is a lengthy process that requires "dozens of hours of extra work."

Currently, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana in some form. An additional 15 states allow low-THC, high-CBD cannabis for treatment of various medical ailments.

[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]