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Cannabinoid treatments in epilepsy and seizure disorders

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark Cunningham, Ashan Jayasekera


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Cannabis has been used to treat convulsions and other disorders since ancient times. In the last few decades, preclinical animal studies and clinical investigations have established the role of cannabidiol (CBD) in treating epilepsy and seizures and support potential therapeutic benefits for cannabinoids in other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Here, we comprehensively review the role of cannabinoids in epilepsy. We briefly review the diverse physiological processes mediating the central nervous system response to cannabinoids, including Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), cannabidiol, and terpenes. Next, we characterize the anti- and proconvulsive effects of cannabinoids from animal studies of acute seizures and chronic epileptogenesis. We then review the clinical literature on using cannabinoids to treat epilepsy, including anecdotal evidence and case studies as well as the more recent randomized controlled clinical trials that led to US Food and Drug Administration approval of CBD for some types of epilepsy. Overall, we seek to evaluate our current understanding of cannabinoids in epilepsy and focus future research on unanswered questions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Devinsky O, Jones NA, Cunningham MO, Jayasekera BAP, Devore S, Whalley BJ

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Physiological Reviews

Year: 2024

Volume: 104

Issue: 2

Pages: 591-649

Print publication date: 01/04/2024

Online publication date: 10/01/2024

Acceptance date: 22/10/2023

ISSN (print): 0031-9333

ISSN (electronic): 1522-1210

Publisher: American Physiological Society


DOI: 10.1152/physrev.00049.2021

PubMed id: 37882730