Epilepsy patients turning to medicinal cannabis, survey shows

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Cannabis Marijuana Leaf pile

Many epilepsy patients in Australia are turning to medicinal cannabis to manage their seizures, a survey has shown.

The nationwide survey found 14% of people with epilepsy had used cannabis products to manage the condition. Of those, 90% of adults and 71% of children with epilepsy, according to their parents, reported success in managing seizures.

Published in the journal Epilepsy & Behaviour, the Epilepsy Action Australia study, in partnership with the Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney, surveyed 976 respondents to examine cannabis use in people with epilepsy, reasons for use and any perceived benefits self-reported by consumers.

The main reason given for trying cannabis products was to seek a treatment with “more favourable” side-effects compared with standard antiepileptic drugs.

The lead author of the study, Anastatsia Suraeve from the Lambert Initiative, said researchers had gained further insight into the reasons that influence use.

“Despite the limitations of a retrospective online survey, we cannot ignore that a significant proportion of adults and children with epilepsy are using cannabis-based products in Australia, and many are self-reporting considerable benefits to their condition,” Suraeve said.

“More systematic clinical studies are urgently needed to help us better understand the role of cannabinoids in epilepsy,” she said.

In 2015, the grandparents of three-year-old girl with a rare form of epilepsy made a $33.7m donation to the Lambert Initiative to fund medicinal cannabis research.

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