A study has found Australian parents who turned to medicinal cannabis to treat children with epilepsy overwhelmingly (75%) considered the extracts as “effective”. Contrary to parental expectations, extracts generally contained low doses of cannabidiol (CBD) – commonly considered to be a key therapeutic element and that has been successfully used in recent clinical trials to treat epilepsy.
The research, which commenced two years ago by the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, not only sheds light on the composition of cannabis used in the community but also reveals the legal, bureaucratic, and cost issues faced by families who relied on the products, as well as demonstrating the barriers to accessing medicinal cannabis.
The study found that the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), and the closely related compound THCA, were present in most extracts, although the quantity was generally not enough to produce intoxicating effects. Just over half the extracts were associated with a seizure reduction of 75%-100%, which reinforces observations from animal studies and case reports of anticonvulsant effects of THC and THCA. As well, 65% were associated with other beneficial effects like improved cognition (35%) and language skills (24%).