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Cannabis-based products to treat childhood epilepsy

Published October 2018

Download the full evidence summary PDF: WTE Epilepsy and cannabis-based products

What Were We Asked?

We were asked whether there was any research evaluating the effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) for controlling epileptic seizures in children.

Key Findings

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two drugs derived from the cannabis plant which have been shown in experiments to have anti-epileptic properties.
  • There is evidence that THC can have harmful effects on the developing brain, research has therefore concentrated on the use of CBD as a treatment for epilepsy in children.
  • In July 2018 UK law was changed to allow medical practitioners to prescribe cannabis-based products to patients with exceptional clinical need. However, there is currently no agreement in the UK as to how ‘medicinal cannabis’ is defined.
  • Research evidence suggests some children with rare forms of childhood epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome) or epilepsy which does not respond to standard medication, may benefit from the use of cannabis-based products.
  • Grown cannabis or 'artisanal' cannabis cannot be safely used in place of prescribed cannabis-based products.
  • Any use of cannabis-based products should be under expert medical supervision.

Note: This informtation is produced by PenCRU researchers and reviewed by external experts. The views expressed are those of PenCRU at the University of Exeter Medical School and do not represent the views of the Cerebra charity, or any other parties mentioned. We strongly recommend seeking medical advice before undertaking any treatments/therapies.