Is it possible to treat seizures without side effects? CBD oils have been recently praised as a miracle medicine against seizures and similar brain conditions. It's not a panacea for all of us "leptics," but CBD for seizures could still be a promising treatment. It's able to reduce or even replace pharmaceutical interventions, sometimes working when other treatments have failed.
This article will cover epilepsy, cataplexy, and non-epileptic seizures. Why these three conditions? Though very different in their causes, the symptoms resemble each other, which results in frequent misdiagnosis. The good part is that all three conditions respond to CBD. Hemp oil is a valuable tool for brain health, even if the mechanism for your illness is not confirmed.What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disease that consists of repeated seizures. About 50 million people have epilepsy in the US.
An epileptic seizure happens when your brain lights up with inappropriate electricity. This causes the full body to respond in a way you can't control.
Causes and types of epileptic seizures
Common causes of seizure disorders include brain damage and genetics. The majority of seizures fit into one of three categories:
1. Generalized Onset
When both sides of the brain are involved at the same time, it's called generalized onset. There are three types of seizures that fall under this category:
- Tonic-clonic or "Grand Mal" seizures involve the classic full-body contractions.
- Absence seizures involve no muscle contractions but still cause full activation of the brain. This means they usually manifest in the form of staring spells.
- Atonic seizures or "drop seizures" cause a total loss of muscle tone, making the sufferer fall limp suddenly.
2. Focal Onset (partial seizures)
Medical professionals used to call this class of seizures "partial seizures". They now use the term "focal" to refer to seizures that start in one specific area of the brain. Focal seizures come in two varieties:
- Focal Onset Aware Seizures happen when you're awake and aware during seizure onset.
- Focal Onset Impaired Awareness happens when you're confused or unconscious during a seizure.
3. Unknown Onset seizures
These are seizures with an onset we can't identify. If they happen again, they’re sometimes later recognized as one of the forms of epilepsy I’ve already mentioned.Diagnosing & Treating Seizures
I had my first major seizure-like episode at the age of 17 during choir. I was halfway through the aria, singing in front of several hundred people.
During my first song, I noticed that something was wrong. A few seconds later, I heard a hundred gasps as I dropped to the floor, fully conscious but unable to move.
Everyone assumed I had passed out from stage fright. I let them think that. I had no idea what had happened and didn't want anyone to accuse me of faking it.
Epileptic seizures are caused by faulty electrical signals in your brain. The only way to document the seizure is to monitor the brain when it’s taking place. Since most seizures are unpredictable, this is difficult. Doctors often use self-reporting and eyewitness testimony to make the diagnosis.
Antiepileptic Drugs (AEDs)
It was about four more years before my symptoms got bad enough to land me in the hospital for tests. Even though my brain scans came back normal, I received the standard anti-epileptic drugs. However, when medications don't work, it's time to consider other options.
CBD for Epilepsy
We don’t know the mechanism of action, but we know that CBD works for the treatment of epilepsy. Patients with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, and Dravet Syndrome see a dramatic reduction in seizures when they start taking CBD.
What are non-epileptic seizures?
Non-epileptic seizures are also called "psychogenic seizures.” They're often indistinguishable from epileptic seizures. They are generally caused by psychiatric triggers, such as traumatic experiences including death, sexual abuse, injury or other dramatic and sudden changes. But their psychiatric explanation does not mean that the seizures are not real; it simply means the cause is chemical, not electrical.
Without monitoring the brain while the seizure is taking place, it's hard to know which it really is.
Treatment of non-epileptic seizures
Brain tests came back negative for epileptic seizures. The epilepsy drugs didn't seem to work. So they sent me to a neuropsychologist to get screened for psychogenic seizures. These are treated with tools such as:
- Medications that treat symptoms related to the trauma
These treatments helped with the slight depression I was starting to experience. But my episodes became more and more frequent. I couldn't work. It got to the point that I couldn't bathe or cook over a stove without sustaining injuries.
How CBD Oil Changed Everything
My childhood best friend was diagnosed with unknown onset seizures at around the same time as me. He didn't respond to medications either. They shrugged him off into the category of treatment-resistant epilepsy.
An herbalist by trade, he started experimenting with hemp oils. He eventually found a blend that worked for him. A couple of drops under the tongue stopped his seizures faster than rescue medications. He shared his new discovery with me.
It was like finding a pot of gold.
I'd used hemp products before to help with reproductive pain and headaches. Using cannabidiol to control seizures wasn't something I'd considered.
I started experimenting. I dropped oil under my tongue at scheduled times throughout the day. I took an extra large dose at bedtime.
It wasn't a cure, but I found enough of a reduction in episodes that I could start working again.
Cataplexy: A Rare Symptom of A Complex Condition
I held my life together for a couple more years, using hemp oil as my only medication. I eventually figured out my own diagnosis. My husband hunted down many doctors before they would test me.
Cataplexy is a very rare condition. It usually manifests as a symptom of the sleep disorder called Narcolepsy. Cataplexy mimics drop seizures, causing a similar loss of muscle control. Because it's so rare, it's often misdiagnosed as a seizure disorder.
Episodes of cataplexy are usually triggered by emotions. Positive emotions like laughter and joy are the more common triggers, but surprise and anger do it too. Because of the emotional element, cataplexy is often mistaken as psychogenic seizures. The difference is that psychogenic seizures are a psychiatric issue, to be treated by a psychiatrist. Cataplexy is a medical issue caused by the observable death of specific parts of the brain.
Treating Narcolepsy and Cataplexy
It turns out that CBD is a powerful medication for people with cataplexy. Research shows that CBD calms the brains of epileptics. It also raises the threshold for cataplectic attacks in narcoleptics.
I and my fellow patients with cataplexy are eagerly awaiting the hard data on exactly how this medicine works. In the meantime, we are blessed to have high-quality hemp products available through companies like this.
Hemp as Brain Medicine
If I had not had hemp products to manage the worst of my symptoms, I may never have had the stamina to figure out what was actually wrong with me. Not only that, CBD oil has continued to be a vital element of my treatment plan for many years since.
I do have to take some pharmaceuticals. In my condition, CBD has helped fill the gaps that prescription drugs can't fix. It prevents breakthrough cataplectic episodes. It helps with nausea, appetite, and anxiety. And it helps with sleep - the root cause of the condition.
Hemp oil is the secret sauce that makes my other medications work better. With this treatment plan, I’ve been able to control my condition.