Published last week in the Journal of Neural Transmission, a study has found that THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for its high, may enhance the effectiveness of current anti-seizure drugs.
Researchers from Poland showed that a synthetic form of THC, called WIN 55,212-2, increased the ability of three popular epilepsy drugs to combat seizures in animal models of treatment-resistant epilepsy.
“Based on this preclinical study, it can be concluded that the combinations of WIN 55,212-2 with clonazepam, phenobarbital and valproate can potentially offer patients with limbic seizures favorable outcomes and worthy of clinical evaluation,” wrote Dr. Florek-Luszczki and his team.
The researchers say the marijuana-like chemical showed no negative side effects on the mice. What’s more, they predict it could even reduce the side effects of epilepsy treatment, since patients would require lower doses of the drugs.
“In all cases, because a substantial dose reduction of antiepileptic drugs in the mixture can be anticipated, it can be expected that concurrent adverse effects would be significantly reduced.”
The study also tested synthetic THC with a fourth epilepsy drug, clobazam, but it did not appear to help.
The findings shed new light on the discussion surrounding marijuana as a treatment for epilepsy.
In recent years, CBD (cannabidiol) has gained support because it lacks the high that THC is known for. There is also ample evidence from animal studies and anecdotal reports that CBD has anti-seizure properties on its own.
On the other hand, studies involving THC have produced conflicting results, according to a 2001 review by researchers at NYU School of Medicine. THC seems to have pro-convulsant and anti-convulsant effects in animal models, depending on the dose and type of epilepsy being treated.
With clinical trials of CBD just beginning in the U.S., organizations like the Epilepsy Foundation of America and the Dravet Syndrome Foundation are starting to announce their support.
The Dravet Syndrome Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit, advocated for more research in a statement released Wednesday:
“As we continue to learn more about patients’ experiences with CBD – both successful and unsuccessful – Dravet Syndrome Foundation has become increasingly interested in promoting further research into the efficacy and safety of CBD treatment.”
However, the foundation maintains that research is still needed before CBD can be widely recommended as a treatment.
“Until there is more definitive scientific evidence concerning the safety and efficacy of CBD, Dravet Syndrome Foundation recommends that all families continue to work closely with their treating physicians to make the best decisions regarding medical care,” it concludes.