Dravet syndrome, previously known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy (SMEI), is a severe form of epilepsy that typically develops around 6 months of age. Starting with frequent febrile seizures which are fever-related, seizures can be triggered by body temperature changes, flashing lights, emotional stress or excitement. As the disease progresses, the patient may develop myoclonic seizures, characterized by involuntary muscle spasms, and status epilepticus, a state of continuous seizure that lasts longer than 30 minutes and requires emergency care.
The high frequency of seizures caused by the syndrome commonly causes children to have trouble developing language and motor skills. In addition, they often experience hyperactivity and have problems with socialization. Dravet syndrome is typically treated with anticonvulsant medications and diet adjustment, with varying results from person to person. Seizures associated with Dravet syndrome are particularly difficult to control compared to other forms of epilepsy.
While there is no cure for Dravet syndrome, a 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that cannabis might play a role in reducing seizures caused by Dravet syndrome. One of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), interacts with cannabinoid receptor 1 in the body’s endocannabinoid system, inhibiting the release of a certain neurotransmitter that causes seizures. The study, which is the largest and most successful clinical trial to-date to demonstrate the potential medicinal benefits of CBD, may convince many clinicians to consider CBD for treating the 20% of epileptic disorder that are poorly controlled by prescription drugs.
According to the National Institute of Health, CBD-enriched cannabis reduced seizure frequency in 85% of children and 14% reported complete seizure freedom. Children also saw improvements in sleep (53%), alertness (71%), and mood (63%). Furthermore, these benefits were achieved with minimal side effects.
CBD was approved for use in the treatment of Dravet syndrome in 2018, and studies continue to demonstrate its effectiveness. Tell us your experiences in the comments.