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This article was published in January 2015. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Cannabidiol treatment: doctors versus patients

12 Jan 2015

A survey about using marijuana-based treatments appears to have split opinions between people with epilepsy and the doctors who treat them. Specialists warn there is not yet enough evidence to support their use

The survey findings were presented in the medical journal Epilepsia. Researchers conducted the survey online between 20 May 2014 and 1 September. It was open to anyone – researchers, medical professionals, patients and their families.

The survey included eight questions. Four were about the responder’s background (occupation, location and so on). The other four related specifically to opinions about the use of cannabidiol (CBD) – a chemical compound derived from marijuana. CBD is currently being researched as a treatment for severe epilepsy.

A doctor and patient discuss treatmentThese treatments – including the development of CBD – have grabbed news headlines countless times over recent months. Many families – in the US particularly – are already using cannabis oils to treat seizures in their children due to many stories about its effectiveness.

The four questions surrounding CBD asked for opinions on:

  • The safety of CBD
  • The effectiveness of CBD treatment
  • Whether responder would advise using CBD in cases of severe epilepsy and
  • Whether pharmacologic-grade (very high-quality) CBD compounds should be available for treatment

The survey results showed a huge difference between medical professionals and members of the public. Among non-medical professionals, 96 per cent of people said there was enough information about the safety of CBD. A further 95 per cent said there was enough information about the effectiveness of it. Ninety-eight per cent of non-medical professionals would recommend its use in treating severe epilepsy.

Epilepsy or neurology specialists did not appear to agree. Only 34 per cent of specialists (around a third) said there was enough data on the safety of CBD to support its use. Only 28 per cent (just over a quarter) said there was enough information on its effectiveness. Forty-eight per cent (less than half) of specialist say they would recommend CBD treatment for severe epilepsy.

There are currently medical trials of CBD being conducted both in the US and UK. These trials may help answer the question of whether CBD may genuinely have a place in epilepsy treatment.

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