Marijuana Use in Epilepsy: The Myth and the Reality


Marijuana has been utilized as a medicinal plant to treat a variety of conditions for nearly five millennia. Over the past few years, there has been an unprecedented interest in using cannabis extracts to treat epilepsy, spurred on by a few refractory pediatric cases featured in the media that had an almost miraculous response to cannabidiol-enriched marijuana extracts. This review attempts to answer the most important questions a clinician may have regarding the use of marijuana in epilepsy. First, we review the preclinical and human evidences for the anticonvulsant properties of the different cannabinoids, mainly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Then, we explore the safety data from animal and human studies. Lastly, we attempt to reconcile the controversy regarding physicians’ and patients’ opinions about whether the available evidence is sufficient to recommend the use of marijuana to treat epilepsy.

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Conflict of Interest

Kamil Detyniecki has received research grants from Eisai, Lundbeck, and Sunovion and an honoraria payment from Eisai.

Lawrence Hirsch has received consultancy fees from Lundbeck, Upsher-Smith, and GlaxoSmithKline, grants from UCB-Pharma, Upsher-Smith, Lundbeck, Eisai, and Sunovion, and royalty payments from UpToDate, Inc. and Medlink Corporation.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Kamil Detyniecki.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Epilepsy

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Detyniecki, K., Hirsch, L. Marijuana Use in Epilepsy: The Myth and the Reality. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 15, 65 (2015).

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  • Marijuana
  • Cannabinoids
  • Epilepsy
  • Cannabidiol
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol