Dravet Syndrome and Medical Cannabis

According to recent studies, medicinal cannabis can effectively reduce the symptoms that Dravet Syndrome causes.

Understanding Dravet Syndrome

A type of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome or Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy is incurable and rare. The onset of the disease typically occurs around 6 months of age. Infants who are affected often develop other types of seizures as well, such as non-conclusive, atypical absence, and myoclonic eyelid seizures. More types of seizures can emerge in the child’s second year.

Parents of children who are affected by Dravet syndrome usually notice that their development is initially on track, but it plateaus and begins to decline around the second year of their lives. They often have a higher rate of sudden unexplained death. It is also common for these children to have other related conditions that must receive a proper diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Additionally, children can have seizures, even when typical triggers such as high ambient temperatures, fever, or illness are not present. These seizures resist treatment and happen frequently. Multiple drug therapy is required in most cases to control the episodes and achieve an acceptable quality of life.

As a spectrum disorder, the course of Dravet syndrome varies, so treatment has to be tailored to each child. There also is no standard treatment protocol because the types and numbers of seizures commonly change as the children age. Neuroimaging, EEGs, and other medical imaging techniques are tools that physicians use to confirm a Dravet syndrome diagnosis.

Conditions Associated With Dravet Syndrome

Several other health conditions have been linked with Dravet syndrome, including:

  • Chronic infection
  • Delayed growth
  • Delayed language and speech acquisition
  • Delays in behavioral, cognitive and emotional development
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dysfunctional autonomic nervous system, which regulates internal temperature control and sweating
  • Impaired balance and mobility
  • Issues with bone formation and growth
  • Dysfunctional sensory integration
  • Problems with nutritional uptake

Medical Cannabis as Part of a Dravet Syndrome Treatment Plan

Dravet syndrome causes frequent seizures, decreased the quality of life, and neurodevelopmental delays. The condition is relatively resistant to conventional treatments, so parents depend on alternative methods to help their children.

Using medical cannabis for seizure control and to alleviate other symptoms did not start until a family in Colorado worked with a medical dispensary to grow a strain of cannabis with lower levels of THC but higher levels of CBD. The successful treatment of their daughter’s seizures and other symptoms became a gateway for other children with Dravet syndrome to gain access to the strain, which is now called Charlotte’s Web. Giving medical cannabis to children is still a highly controversial topic, but medical cannabis works for situations in which traditional treatment delivers little to no results.

Stanford University’s Department of Neurology published the findings of a 2013 survey of parents who give their children Charlotte’s Web and rely on it as an alternative for controlling treatment-resistant epilepsy, including Dravet syndrome. On average, parents indicated that 12 common prescriptions failed to control the symptoms that their kids experienced. About 84 percent said that CBD-enriched cannabis products helped reduce the symptoms. The seizures stopped completely in 11 percent of the children, were 80 percent less frequent in 42 percent of the kids and were 25 to 60 percent less frequent in 32 percent of the children. The side effects that were noted from the use of medical cannabis included drowsiness and fatigue.


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