Cannabis oil can reduce seizures in kids, University of Sask. study suggests

The University of Saskatchewan has been conducting research on kids with epilepsy, using controlled amounts of medicinal cannabis oil. During the trials 7 kids were studied and 3 of them stopped having seizures completely during the study.

Report co-author says results are preliminary but promising

The University of Saskatchewan has been conducting research on kids with epilepsy, using controlled amounts of medicinal cannabis oil. (BC Cannabis Stores)

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan say preliminary results suggest medicinal cannabis oil can reduce or completely stop seizures in children experiencing severe and drug-resistant epilepsy.

The study, funded by Jim Pattison's Children's Hospital Foundation, monitored seven children with severe pediatric epilepsy, a debilitating condition that can cause children to suffer as many as 1,200 seizures a month.

Dr. Richard Huntsman, a pediatric neurologist at the university's college of medicine and one of the study's authors, said the results are nascent but encouraging. The overall reduction in seizures was close to 75 per cent on average.

"Some people might say that's not perfect, that's not 100 per cent, but you have to take into consideration these are kids that have failed multiple anti-seizure medications, multiple treatments. The likelihood of getting a good result with another medication is really, really low."

Dr. Richard Huntsman is a paediatric neurologist with the College of Medicine. He says the preliminary results are heartening. (Matthew Garand / CBC Saskatoon)

Three of the seven children stopped having seizures altogether during the study. 

During the study, the children were administered their typical medication in addition to the cannabis. No participant was administered a placebo.

After one month of observing their seizures, the children received increasing doses of a herbal cannabis extract. The dosage was then increased each month for six months.

A major barrier to the study was the notion that the cannabis-based medicine would make the children intoxicated.

But the actual medication consisted of 95 per cent cannabidiol (CBD) and five per cent THC. CBD is derived from cannabis plants but does not create a high, whereas THC can be intoxicating. 

"What we were able to show is that the THC levels, even at the highest doses in this study, remained low," Huntsman said. "Based on this —and, again, this [is] preliminary data for seven patients of study so we have got to keep that in mind — but what we're able to show so far is that the concerns about THC intoxication, maybe it's not as much of a concern." 

Part of the study attempted to outline a framework on how to administer cannabis-based medicine, as there was no evidence-based dosage guideline, Huntsman said.