Marijuana as a Treatment for Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can be both debilitating and life-altering for those that suffer from it. Epilepsy is a result of mischarges in the brain, or abnormal electrical discharges within the brain cells. Those electrical charges cause convulsions in the body, known as epileptic seizures, are the biggest symptom of epilepsy and can cause temporary confusion, staring spells, uncontrollable jerking movements in the arms and legs, and loss of awareness or consciousness. Often the cause of epilepsy is unknown, although certain viruses, head traumas, and hormonal imbalances have been known to cause the condition in patients.
Epilepsy can be a very frightening condition, especially for parents that are watching their young children suffer from it. But what can be even more frightening is that in some cases, the body might not respond to medication, making the epilepsy virtually untreatable. This is just what happened to Matt and Paige Figi, who in 2006 gave birth to twins, their second and third children – Chase and Charlotte Figi.
At just 3 months of age, Charlotte Figi had her first seizure. It would be the first of thousands, and by the age of 2, Charlotte’s health had begun to decline rapidly. Not only were the seizures becoming more severe, and happening more often, but she was also on many heavy medications – 7 to be exact. They ranged from barbiturates to benzodiazepines and while they did not have any long-term effects, they did bring their own host of symptoms.
By the time she was five, Charlotte had been diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome - an extremely rare and extremely severe form of epilepsy. It also doesn’t respond to conventional treatments. She had been put on diets and taken off of them, her immune system was rapidly declining, her behavior was changing, and she could no longer walk, talk, or eat. She was also having 300 grand mal seizures a week.
When it was clear that her daughter was slipping away, and that all other treatment options had been exhausted, Paige and Matt Figi decided to try cannabis oil as a treatment for Charlotte. It wasn’t easy. Because of her young age, and the fact that there was so much still unknown about medical marijuana at the time, it took some time to find doctors, and even dispensaries, that were willing to work with them. But they did, and with the help of Stanley Brothers, they started giving Charlotte two doses of cannabis oil in her food every day.
The Stanley Brothers are six brothers that developed a cannabis strain low in THC and high in CBD, before they had ever even met Charlotte. While they believed that this particular strain – that didn’t have much of the psychoactive element of THC but had plenty of medicinal benefits from the CBD – would be beneficial to many, they couldn’t find anyone who wanted it. Until they met the Figis.
Because of the high CBD content of the strain the Stanley Brothers had cross-bred, it’s thought that it can actually calm and control the impulses in the brain that cause epileptic seizures to happen in the first place. It can do so without the negative side effects that come with many conventional treatments, and it’s proven in Charlotte’s cases, and in many others, to be highly effective. The strain is known as Charlotte’s Web, named after the little girl it originally helped.
Today, Charlotte is 9 and thriving. Her seizures have reduced to only 2 or 3 a month and they happen mostly when she’s asleep. For her parents – and the hundreds of people that have now been helped by Charlotte’s Web – it’s all the proof they need that marijuana is an effective treatment for epilepsy.
“I want to scream it from the rooftops,” said Matt Figi after seeing the change in his daughter. “I want other people, other parents, to know that this is a viable option.”