Epilepsy Patients May Be Losing Out On Potential Benefits Of CBD Due To Its Lack Of Regulation

Throughout history, medical experts and scientists have been trying to understand seizures and determine why people have them. The neurological condition defined as epilepsy causes unprovoked seizures that can last from a few seconds to several minutes (via Healthline).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epilepsy affects nearly 3.5 million people in the United States. The exact causes of epilepsy remain a mystery, but doctors have determined the condition can be triggered by stroke, a brain tumor, head injury, or infection of the central nervous system, per Healthline. The brain disorder can affect anyone, both males and females of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds.

Treatment for epilepsy varies, ranging from medication, surgery, or a change in diet (per WebMD). An alternative option some epilepsy patients and advocates are pushing for is access to CBD, the active ingredient found in marijuana. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, some patients dealing with uncontrolled seizures have seen reduced seizure activity after using medical cannabis or CBD products. 

The organization is advocating for full legal access to cannabis and CBD to allow epilepsy patients another treatment option to get their seizures under control. There is also support for more research efforts to determine the pros and cons of CBD usage. The federal government has now legalized CBD, but that's only half the battle (via The Washington Post). Another piece of the puzzle is regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to standardize the ingredients of each product on the market.

Calls for CBD regulation

Dr. Ryan Vandrey, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says "The potential of CBD products for the treatment of seizure disorders goes beyond seizure control alone" via Johns Hopkins Medicine. He continued by stating, "In our study, we saw clinically significant improvements in anxiety, depression and sleep when patients with epilepsy initiated therapeutic use of artisanal CBD products."

Although research looks promising, the lack of regulation by the FDA impacts whether or not epilepsy patients can take advantage of potential benefits. Doctors are hesitant to recommend CBD as a treatment option due to potentially harmful products and unknown ingredients (via Kaiser Health News). An unregulated market could possibly lead to poor quality products or fabricated information about what's inside the bottles.

Right now the FDA prohibits companies from marketing CBD products as dietary supplements, per Kaiser Health News. It's also illegal to make claims that CBD products can treat medical conditions like epilepsy. When asked about the status of regulation in 2021, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA's acting commissioner at the time, told The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, "We remain steadfast in our effort to obtain research, data and other safety and public health input to inform our approach and to address consumer access in a way that protects public health and maintains incentives for cannabis drug development through established regulatory pathways."