INTRODUCTION: Medical cannabis is increasingly discussed as an alternative treatment option in neurological diseases, e.g. epilepsy. Supporters and opponents base their propositions mostly on subjective estimates, they confuse cannabis in whole versus extracts and botanical versus synthesized.
METHODS: Two hundred seventy five patients with any kind of epilepsy (56% female, 44% seizure free, 91% on medication) answered a survey on the knowledge, expectations, fears, and willingness to be treated with medical cannabis. Data were analyzed with regard to patient characteristics and clinical data from patient files.
RESULTS: Overall, 70.5% of the patients were familiar with the possibility of medical cannabis treatment, 36.7% with its use in epilepsy. A minority of 10.9% gained the information from their physicians. The majority knew about organic compared to synthetic cannabis. The interest in further information is high (71.3%). Regression analysis (explaining 53.8% of the variance) indicated that positive expectations (in the order of relevance) were seizure control, relaxation, mood, and tolerability whereas fears mostly concerned addiction and delirant intoxication. Men showed a greater interest than women.
CONCLUSION: Many epilepsy patients knew about medical cannabis, were interested in this treatment, and wanted more information. Expectations, however, appear to be based on the connotations of the whole substance cannabis with tetrahydrocannabidiol and its commonly known effects. Unfortunately, patients did not get their information from physicians, but mostly by other sources. In order to avoid prejudices and potentially harmful self-medication, physicians and healthcare providers are called to become familiar with the substance and to inform patients adequately.