As parents and as advocates, we feel an urgency to respond and take action on an issue that has been brought to the Epilepsy Foundation from individuals we serve across the country– the use of marijuana to treat epilepsy. We write this with advice and support from Nathan Fountain, Chairman of our Professional Advisory Board, and with advice and support from a range of other leading epilepsy professionals and board members.
2.3 million Americans live with epilepsy, a neurological condition that includes recurring seizures. More than 1 million of them live with uncontrolled seizures. Some of these people may be helped by surgery or other non-drug treatments, but for many, no answers have been found yet. People with uncontrolled seizures live with the continual risk of serious injuries and loss of life.
The Epilepsy Foundation supports the rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana. Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment. If a patient and their healthcare professionals feel that the potential benefits of medical marijuana for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks, then families need to have that legal option now — not in five years or ten years. For people living with severe uncontrolled epilepsy, time is not on their side. This is a very important, difficult, and personal decision that should be made by a patient and family working with their healthcare team.
Treatments for epilepsy with any form of marijuana come with risks, as there is much that is not known about its effects. The consistency of available formulations also needs to be addressed. Caution is appropriate, and we strongly recommend that patients with uncontrolled seizures seek out an epilepsy specialist. However, existing therapies have real side-effects both known and unknown, and, just as there are risks with any treatment, every day without seizure control is a risk to life. Every seizure is a possible opportunity lost to live, learn, and grow.
The Epilepsy Foundation calls for an end to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) restrictions that limit clinical trials and research into medical marijuana for epilepsy. We applaud recent decisions that have allowed clinical trials of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, to begin in several states. Certain components of medical marijuana, including CBD, have shown effectiveness in animal studies, and there have been encouraging anecdotal reports from patients. But further research and unbiased clinical trials are needed to establish whether and in what forms medical marijuana is or is not effective and safe. Restrictions on the use of medical marijuana continue to stand in the way of this research.
The Epilepsy Foundation believes that an end to seizures should not be determined by one’s zip code. Our current situation as an epilepsy community is not acceptable. Families looking to access medical marijuana as a treatment are facing terrible decisions. One parent may move across the country to live with a child to seek this treatment. Other families may uproot entirely, including leaving their job, to move where they can access CBD oil. In the past, when therapies not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were available abroad and left only to those who could afford to travel, we fought for compassionate access. We are here to continue the fight.
The Epilepsy Foundation will be doing the following to support improved access and research into medical marijuana:
- Calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to implement a lesser schedule for marijuana so that it can be more easily accessible for medical research.
- Supporting appropriate changes to state laws to increase access to medical marijuana as a treatment option for epilepsy, including pediatric use as supported by a treating physician.
- Supporting the inclusion of epilepsy as a condition that uses medical marijuana as a treatment option where it is currently available.
- Supporting research on multiple forms of cannabis and seizures.
What can you do to help? Advocate for increased access and for the freedom to conduct medical research on a potentially effective treatment against seizures and epilepsy. Join with us at http://capwiz.com/efa/mlm/signup.
Here’s Our Story:
As the President & CEO and as the Chair of the Board of the Epilepsy Foundation, we are privileged to lead a nationwide network of caring volunteers and staff who work tirelessly to improve lives of individuals living with epilepsy.
We are also fathers of individuals living with epilepsy. Phil’s son has had thousands of seizures in his life and has endured two brain surgeries to stop his seizures. Warren’s daughter has a genetic form of epilepsy that is marked by severe seizures and, despite an implanted medical device and three different epilepsy medicines, endures daily waves of seizures.
Some individuals, specifically families of children with uncontrolled seizures, are using what is called cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, and anecdotally a few are seeing remarkable results. This is truly spectacular — anytime someone finds a treatment that stops seizures, there is cause for celebration because seizure freedom for one person means hope of seizure freedom for others.
There is still a lot we don’t know about the medical use of marijuana for epilepsy. Until clinical trials are completed, doctors and patients will not know whether medical marijuana or CBD will on balance harm someone or help someone with epilepsy. We are advocating for the rights of patients and families to determine with their doctor if this is an appropriate therapy for them, but we recognize the unknowns and the difficulty of this decision for an individual patient.
There is an obvious and urgent need for research. The Epilepsy Foundation is proud that we are currently funding an important research study to learn more about the effect of a form of cannabis on individuals living with uncontrolled epilepsy.
As fathers, we know the pain of watching our children experience uncontrolled seizures.
We know how epilepsy impacts development in children for whom no available current treatment has been successful.
We know about the dangers that can occur when families are forced to leave medical systems and physicians they know to move to other states.
We know seizures not only affect the individual enduring seizures, it also impacts siblings, parents, grandparents, kids and grandchildren, other loved ones and friends.
We know the difference between having recurring seizures and not having seizures can mean the difference between life and death.
Warren’s daughter is fortunate to be enrolled in a clinical trial of CBD. We do not know if this will help Sylvie but know the cost of her unrelenting seizures. Weighing the issue with her doctor, we decided the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Other parents and other individuals living with potentially devastating seizures should have the same opportunity to make that determination.
If an epilepsy patient and their doctor feel that marijuana is their best treatment option then they need to have safe, legal access to medical marijuana and they need that access now.
Commentary Medical Marijuana: We Need Proof and Compassion Orrin Devinsky, M.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Director, NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center Member of Epilepsy Foundation National Board of Directors
There is an enormous unmet need for better treatments for children and adults with epilepsy. Approximately one-third of people with epilepsy continue to suffer from seizures despite the best medical, dietary, and surgical therapies. For those with treatment-resistant epilepsy, the enormous toll includes the direct and potentially deadly consequences of the seizures, which are compounded by the disabling physical, cognitive and behavioral side effects from high doses of multiple antiepileptic drugs. Despite advances in epilepsy therapy over the past decades, our progress remains painfully slow and disappointing. Medical care and research fails many patients. The statement by Phil Gattone and Warren Lammert of the Epilepsy Foundation strongly advocates that there should be legal access for all epilepsy patients and their doctors who feel that marijuana is their best treatment option. I agree.
In a recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, my colleague Daniel Friedman and I emphasized 1) the need for randomized controlled trials, considered the gold standard for clinical trials, to better understand the safety and effectiveness of any drug or combination of drugs – whether derived from a marijuana plant or synthesized in a lab, 2) the need for changes in how the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana and its constituents as Schedule 1 drugs. This is much too restrictive based on the scientific data, especially for cannabidiol (CBD) – the major non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and 3) while we await scientific studies, that marijuana products be made available to pediatric and adult patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy.
Charlotte Figi, who has brought this story to the forefront, suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a genetic disorder that often causes severe epilepsy. Medical marijuana, high in CBD and low in THC, has been reported to cause a dramatic reduction in her seizures and eliminate her need for seizure medications. Caring for epilepsy patients for 25 years, I have seen firsthand the devastation that uncontrolled epilepsy can bring. In the last 2 years, two of my patients with Dravet Syndrome died from sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).
Data from animal studies showing CBD and THC can stop seizures, stories like Charlotte’s, and the tremendous unmet need led me to organize the first international symposium on cannabidiol for epilepsy at NYU in October 2013, to provide testimony for compassionate use for marijuana to several state legislatures, and to work as a researcher (without consulting fees or salary support) to assess CBD as an epilepsy therapy. For our initial study for 25 pediatric and young adult patients, we have received inquiries from more than 500 families and patients.
We stand at an unusual inflection point where families are demanding access to a medication that may or may not be beneficial, and for which the side effects may be less than many medications prescribed by doctors; the medical community lacks convincing efficacy or safety data for children with epilepsy; and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s overly conservative scheduling of marijuana hamstrings research and access. Yet there should be caution for both expectations and potential side effects. Humility is essential in trying to understand something for which we lack solid evidence. Both doctors and patients are equally biased and the greater the expectation, the greater the potential for bias. We urgently need data from randomized controlled trials where the biases of companies, doctors, patients, and parents are meticulously removed.
We need to make a balanced decision about compassionate use. If I were Charlotte Figi’s parents and lived in Colorado I would have done exactly what they did. And as a doctor, I would gladly prescribe marijuana products for many of my patients who failed existing therapies if it were legal in my state. Trying marijuana or related compounds should be regarded like any other experimental treatment – a shared decision between patient/parent and doctor, that takes into account the severity of disease, risk and benefits of treatment, and existence of alternate treatment options, all guided by the principle of “first do no harm”. Until we have the scientific data, we should make medical marijuana available to physicians who care for people with treatment-resistant epilepsy and their patients.
About Epilepsy When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they have epilepsy, which affects more than 2 million people in the United States and 65 million people worldwide. This year, another 150,000 people in our country will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Despite all available treatments, four out of 10 people with epilepsy continue to experience uncontrolled seizures while many more experience less than optimal seizure control.
About the Epilepsy Foundation The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with 47 affiliated organizations throughout the United States, has led the fight against seizures since 1968. The Foundation is an unwavering ally for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy and seizures. The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to stop seizures and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), find a cure and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy through efforts including education, advocacy and research to accelerate ideas into therapies. The Foundation works to ensure that people with seizures have the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. For additional information, please visit www.epilepsy.com.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kenneth Lowenberg Vice President of Communications and Digital Strategy 301-918-3773 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Christina Sanchez — a molecular biologist at Compultense University in Madrid, Spain — explains how THC kills cancer cells
1937, Popular Science published an article called “Hemp: The New Billion-Dollar Crop” that listed over 25,000 potential uses for the plant.
While this ancient crop has recently started to gain popularity around the world, it still hasn’t received the attention it deserves.
Thanks to Karma Jello!
1. Bacteria Fighting Fabric
A Colorado company is using hemp to fight the spread of staph infections in hospitals. The plan is to offer antibacterial hemp fabric as a replacement for traditional cotton and polyester fabrics, where bacteria are known to survive for up to months at a time.
Various chemicals found in both hemp and cannabis have been shown to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. EnviroTextile’s hemp fabric is still in development, but has already shown promise in early lab tests.
2. Housing Insulation
Insulation made from hemp is quickly becoming a popular eco-friendly alternative to traditional insulation materials like mineral wool.
Not only is hemp a more sustainable raw material, but the final product is also carbon-negative. That means it has the ability to absorb more greenhouse gases over its lifetime than emitted during the production process.
The production of mineral wool, on the other hand, contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. A recent study compared the two insulation materials head-to-head and concluded that hemp was the more sustainable choice.
Hemp has also found its way into concrete mixes. Hempcrete can be used for a variety of construction needs, from walling to roof insulation to flooring.
On top of being carbon-negative, hempcrete is said to be easier to work with and has natural insulating and moisture regulating properties. Hemp bricks also lack the brittleness of traditional concrete and thus do not require expansion joints.
The Lotus Eco Elise is the eco-friendly hemp version of the popular Elise sports car (Photo: Cate Gillon/Getty Images)
Hemp composite can be found in cars made by Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Mercedes, Lotus and Honda, among many others. Biocomposite made from hemp fiber is just as strong as fiberglass, but incredibly lightweight.
All-electric cars like the BMW i3 are especially reliant on it. BMW was able to shed about 10% of weight from the i3′s door panels by using hemp composite instead of traditional materials.
With fuel economy becoming a primary focus of all car makers, hemp composite will only become more common in cars in years to come.
5. Graphene-Like Nanomaterial
Graphene is often touted as the future of nanotechnology, and the thinnest, strongest, and lightest material ever made. But how does hemp compare? Apparently, it’s even better.
Earlier this year, chemical engineers from the University of Alberta turned hemp fiber into a nanomaterial with similar properties as graphene, but a much lower price tag.
What’s more, when it comes to making energy storage devices like batteries and supercapacitors, the hemp nanomaterial showed “superior electrochemical storage properties” compared to graphene.
Research is still in its early stages, but if the results hold, hemp could eventually be used for a wide range of nanotechnology applications, from flashlights to solar cells.
Prospective hemp growers are celebrating Tuesday’s passage of the Farm Bill in the U.S. Senate, as the legislation could be the first step toward creating a multi-billion dollar hemp industry.
Tucked into the $956.4 billion Farm Bill is an amendment proposed by representatives Jared Polis, Thomas Massie and Earl Blumenauer that allows universities and state agricultural departments to grow and research the industrial properties of the plant without fear of reprisal from the federal government.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday.
The only states that are allowed to grow and research under the rule are the 10 states that currently have laws legalizing hemp farming: California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
While this clause may seem minor, it could have major repercussions for hemp cultivation.
Classification Goes a Long Way
The Farm Bill represents the first time industrial hemp has been defined by federal law since the plant was banned under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
The term “industrial hemp” refers to the commercial qualities of certain varieties of the cannabis plant. Unlike marijuana, these industrial varieties contain only trace amounts of THC. But the Controlled Substances Act banned all cannabis, including industrial hemp.
While the Farm Bill is a five-year act, which means hemp’s current classification is not permanent (like the Controlled Substances Act), hemp advocates are optimistic that the government will continue to differentiate industrial hemp from marijuana in the future.
That means the government can pass legislation that is specific to hemp, which could include removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act is currently pending in the House and Senate, and the bill would reclassify the plant permanently.
“Hemp will make serious inroads into the American economy once the definition becomes permanent in American law,” said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for Votehemp.com. “It will do this immediately after that happens.”
What Does the Farm Bill Allow?
Before hemp can be utilized for its full industrial purposes, it does require some additional researching. Much of our knowledge of various hemp strains was lost over the last generation due to faulty records keeping. Seeds were destroyed or left to rot, and the germplasm was destroyed. Breeding records are gone. Some of the breeds are actually extinct.
“We need to develop labs,” said hemp advocate Jason Lauve at the 2013 National CannaBusiness Conference and Expo. “We need to pull out the genetic structures of hemp and develop them.”
The Farm Act allows these states to study the “growth, cultivation and marketing” of hemp. It also allows states to draft their own administrative rules, which means these states can outsource cultivation to local farmers and begin growing as soon as the local rules are accepted. And there is no cap on the amount of hemp that can be grown, or for the size of a research facility.
“You could grow 1,000 acres if you want to,” Murphy said. “If you can create these administrative rules in time, you could have crops in the ground this year.”
A U.S. Hemp Economy
Hemp is a versatile plant, and industry estimates say it is currently used in approximately 25,000 different products across the globe. Its woody center area is used in building materials and paper. Its stalks are turned into rope, clothing and fabric. Its seed can produce a wide variety of foods, as well as fuel and soap.
Canadian company Motive Industries Inc. has even produced a car made entirely out of hemp.
1) CBD is an antibacterial and slows bacterial growth. This is significant for those of us who are dealing with an imbalance of bad bacteria which can cause health problems such as gum disease, heart disease, and intestinal issues.
2) When you take CBD, it does not cause the typical “high” associated with cannabis. In fact, CBD works as a partner with THC to balance its psychoactive effects. My personal experience with high CBD cannabis medicines is that they leave me clear-headed, positive, energetic, and relaxed. I describe this state as feeling like myself.
3) CBD reduces inflammation. Let me repeat that, CBD reduces inflammation!! Inflammation in the body causes disease. Less inflammation, less disease.
4) CBD promotes bone growth. How many people do you know that have a musculoskeletal deficiency who would benefit from a non-toxic, natural medicine for bone growth? When I first learned that taking cannabis could keep my bones strong I think I may have teared up. There are not too many things I wouldn’t do to be able to age without a degenerating, scoliotic spine so to know that this is one of the potential benefits of the CBD medicine that I am taking leaves me feeling incredibly grateful.
5) CBD reduces function in the immune system. If you suffer with an autoimmune disorder calming your overactive immune system down is vital for your continuing health. When my immune system is overactive I have all sorts of funky things happen to me: migraines, body pain, numb fingers and toes, and so on. Having a medicine that can help me regulate immune function is more valuable to me than the words can find.
6) CBD relieves anxiety. How lovely is that? I’m a relatively even tempered person, I think, but I do deal with anxiety. I am aware that this is a side effect of having chronic pain but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. CBD’s allow me to relax and feel like somebody who can handle the regular stresses of life during spells of anxiety.
7) CBD relieves pain. This is by far the most dramatic thing that CBD does for me personally. To be able to have relief from the pain that is debilitating you and locking you within your body feels like absolute freedom.
8) CBD suppresses muscles spasms. I actually had to think about the last time I had muscle spasms because it has been a while. I used to get them all the time before I started using medicinal cannabis but now they are something that I used to get.
9) CBD reduces blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can cause havoc in the body. Ask any person with diabetes and they will tell you that regulating your blood sugar is vital to one’s health and vitality.
10) CBD reduces seizures. I don’t have personal experience with this one but I do know of people who have been able to reduce and in some cases stop the seizures that they experience by using high CBD cannabis.
11) CBD inhibits cancer cell growth. Oh, did I mention it fights cancer?
I am just scratching the surface here of what CBDs can do for the body but that is a pretty impressive list, isn’t it?
How does one effectively get CBDs in their body? You’ll have to first seek out cannabis strains and medicines that contain high CBD. This will require a little homework and probably a little shopping around to find the one that is right for you. The most superior ways that I have found to get CBD through cannabis is by regularly taking it orally or applying it topically to the skin.
I would just like to add that my life drastically changed for the better when I found cannabis medicines with high CBDs. Thankfully I live in a part of the world that allows me to have safe access to this medicine.
May you have safe access to CBD too.
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