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Medicinal Marijuana for Epilepsy: A Case Series Study

  • Lady Diana Ladino (a1) (a2), Lizbeth Hernández-Ronquillo (a1) and José Francisco Téllez-Zenteno (a1)

Objective: To describe the social, clinical and use-patterns characteristics of medicinal marijuana use among patients with epilepsy (PWEs). Methods: Eighteen PWEs with prescriptions for medicinal marijuana from a Canadian adult-epilepsy clinic were included in this study. Results: Eighteen patients had a prescription of medicinal marijuana from a total population of 800 PWEs in our center (2.2%). Mean age of patients was 30±7.4 (19-50) years. Twelve (67%) patients were males. Eleven (61%) patients had drug-resistant epilepsy. Eleven (61%) patients suffered a psychiatric comorbidity and reported the use of illicit substances or heavy alcohol or tobacco consumption. Only two (11%) patients were married; the rest of patients (89%) were single or divorced. The drug use pattern was similar among patients. All patients asked for marijuana permission in the epilepsy clinic. Most (83%) had a previous history of marijuana smoking, with a mean of 6.6±3 (1-15) years. The mean consumption dose was 2.05±1.8 (0.5-8) grams per day. Ten (56%) patients reported withdrawal seizure exacerbation when they stopped the marijuana. Only two patients (11%) reported side effects, and all patients found medicinal marijuana very helpful for seizure control and improvement of mood disorder. Conclusions: PWEs using medicinal marijuana have a common profile. They are usually young single men with drug-resistant epilepsy and psychiatric comorbidity. Most used marijuana before formal prescription and all believe the drug was effective on their seizure control. Because of the concurrent use of other antiseizure medications, it is complex to estimate the actual effect of marijuana.

La marijuana médicinale contre l’épilepsie : étude d’une série de cas. Objectif: Détailler les caractéristiques sociales, cliniques et d’utilisation de la marijuana médicinale chez les patients atteints d’épilepsie. Méthodes: Dix-huit patients atteints d’épilepsie ayant des ordonnances de prescriptions de marijuana médicinale délivrées par une clinique canadienne d’épilepsie de l’adulte ont été inclus dans cette étude. Résultats: Sur une population totale de 800 patients atteints d’épilepsie et suivis dans notre centre, 18 (2,2%) avaient une ordonnance de marijuana médicinale. L’âge moyen des patients était de 30 ± 7,4 (19-50) ans. Douze (67%) patients étaient des hommes. Onze (61%) patients avaient une épilepsie résistante aux médicaments. Onze (61%) patients souffraient d’une comorbidité psychiatrique et avaient signalé l’utilisation de substances illicites ou une forte consommation d’alcool ou de tabac. Seuls, deux (11%) patients étaient mariés; les autres patients (89%) étaient célibataires ou divorcés. Les caractéristiques d’utilisation des drogues étaient similaires pour tous les patients. Tous les patients ont demandé la permission de consommation de marijuana à la clinique d’épilepsie. La majorité d’entre eux (83%) avaient des antécédents de consommation de marijuana depuis, en moyenne, 6,6 ± 3 (1-15) ans. La dose moyenne consommée était de 2,05 ± 1,8 (0,5-8) grammes par jour. Dix (56%) patients ont décrit une exacerbation de sevrage des crises convulsives lorsqu’ils ont arrêté la marijuana. Seulement deux patients (11%) ont signalé des effets indésirables et tous les patients ont trouvé que la marijuana médicinale était très utile pour le contrôle des crises et l’amélioration des troubles de l’humeur. Conclusions: Les patients atteints d’épilepsie utilisant de la marijuana médicinale ont un profil commun. Ils sont habituellement jeunes, célibataires, atteints d’une épilepsie résistant aux médicaments et ils ont une comorbidité psychiatrique. La majorité d’entre eux utilisait la marijuana avant une ordonnance officielle et tous croient que la drogue est efficace pour le contrôle de leur crise. Compte tenu de l’utilisation concomitante d’autres médicaments antiépileptiques, il est difficile d’évaluer l’effet véritable de la marijuana.

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Corresponding author
Correspondence to: José Francisco Téllez-Zenteno, Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Royal University Hospital, 103 Hospital Drive, Box 26, Room 1622, Saskatoon, SK. S7N OW8 Canada. Email:
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Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences
  • ISSN: 0317-1671
  • EISSN: 2057-0155
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-neurological-sciences
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