Welcome to Season 2, Episode 2 of Curt’s Cannabis Corner, an education series from technical writer Curt Robbins at Higher Learning LV and MJNews Network intended for cannabis and hemp professionals—and the enterprise organizations that employ them—who wish to gain a better understanding of the nuanced biochemistry, volatile business environment, and detailed regulatory oversight of this newly legal herb.
This week, readers learn about the recent scientific investigative work of Dr. Nicolas Schlienz, a research scientist and clinical psychologist. Schlienz was recently appointed to the position of Research Director for Realm of Caring, a pioneering non-profit cannabinoid research organization based in Colorado Springs with ties to the popular vertically integrated brand Charlotte’s Web.
Dr. Nicolas Schlienz & CBD for Epilepsy
In July 2021, Schlienz coauthored a study entitled “Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Evaluation of Cannabinoid (CBD) Product Use and Health Among People with Epilepsy” that was published in the peer-reviewed journal Epilepsy & Behavior.
“This study represents a refreshing collaboration of scientists, clinicians, patients, and advocates,” said Jay Salpekar, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Johns Hopkins University. Salpekar said that the study affirms that “cannabinoid products have value in the treatment of epilepsy—as well as associated neuropsychiatric conditions.”
The study observed that cannabis “and select chemicals found in the cannabis plant have received significant clinical attention as evidence accumulates suggesting potential utility for varied health conditions.” It noted that multiple recent studies have “demonstrated the safety and efficacy of CBD in the reduction of seizures for several specific epilepsy syndromes.”
The study stated that the efficacy of CBD for those who suffer epilepsy goes beyond seizure control. “CBD products may prove valuable for their effects on psychosocial function and psychiatric health,” stating that a variety of behavior issues, including psychiatric disorders, are “overrepresented among people with epilepsy.”
This study is of importance because it was conducted on human participants, not in test tubes or on animal subjects. Participants were “predominantly Caucasian (74 percent) with a roughly even split by gender (55 percent female), an average of 21 years old (51 percent were under 18), and the majority (90 percent) had no history of non-medicinal (‘recreational’) cannabis use.”
93 percent of the study participants reported epilepsy as their primary medical condition. “The other seven percent reported epilepsy secondary to cancer, autoimmune conditions, neuropsychiatric conditions, chronic pain, insomnia/sleep disorders, or other conditions.”
How They Did It
The study participants employed a variety of cannabis-based products in the treatment of their epilepsy, including inflammation-reducing CBD, psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and several other cannabinoids that spanned anti-inflammatory cannabigerol (CBG), relaxant and sedative cannabinol (CBN), anti-nausea agent cannabidiolic acid (CBDA; the acidic precursor to CBD), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV; the varin version of THC), which is known to reduce appetite.
“For purpose of analysis, it is assumed that these participants were using an artisanal CBD product. A subset of artisanal CBD users reported also using known THC-dominant products containing high concentrations of both CBD and THC or products in which the primary chemical constituent was a minor cannabinoid such as CBG, CBN, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A), CBD-A, or THC-V.”
The study also found the safety profile of CBD to be acceptable for patients and consumers, particularly for those using it to treat epilepsy. “Among the 280 baseline artisanal CBD users, the majority did not report an adverse effect.”
What They Found
For those who suffer epilepsy and are seeking relief from CBD, the results of this scientific investigation reveal potentially limited efficacy of this popular cannabinoid for seizure management specifically. “No group differences were observed in seizure control based on self-reported number of past month seizures,” concluded the study’s authors.
Elaborated the scientists: “Seizure control did not differ based on artisanal CBD product use in this study. This may be related to a number of factors, including those that could not be controlled in [an] observational setting.”
Significant CBD Benefits Identified
However, the researchers noted that participants enjoyed a range of significant benefits from CBD, including “generally higher quality of life, lower psychiatric symptom scores, and improved sleep.” The study also reported that “artisanal CBD users” displayed considerably “better epilepsy medication tolerability.”
Concluded the study, “Compared with controls, artisanal CBD users had greater health satisfaction.” It also found that the CBD-using epilepsy patients who participated in the research displayed “lower anxiety and depression.”
Despite its efficacy for many of the symptoms that accompany epilepsy, including psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, this particular study did not find that the cannabinoid CBD lowered the incidence or severity of seizure activity as experienced by those with epilepsy.
Based on the observational and participant self-report nature of the study, the scientists noted that their results may be influenced by the loss of control that is inherent in observation research of this type.