We exist to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

Study confirms safety of cannabis drug CBD

11 May 2015

Using a drug based on a chemical found in the cannabis plant to treat epilepsy has been controversial to say the least. An early study from the US may lend more weight to its scientific standing, however. The study suggests that the drug is safe, well-tolerated and effective

An early American study has assessed the safety of Epidiolex – the drug made from cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from cannabis.

The study was conducted by Dr Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. It was designed to test the safety of Epidiolex and how well people could tolerate it.

A scientist in the laboratoryA total of 213 people took part in the study, ranging from young children to adults and all living with epilepsies that are difficult to treat. These included Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome – two severe childhood epilepsies.

Some participants had negative reactions to the medication. These included diarrhoea, decreased appetite and tiredness. Twelve people did not finish the trial because of these side-effects.

Those people who completed the study experienced an average 54 per cent decrease in the number of their seizures. These results are promising, but Dr Devinsky insists that more tests are needed. Trials with bigger test groups and placebos should be done to confirm the safety and effectiveness of the drug.

Epidiolex was approved for testing by the US Food and Drugs Administration even though cannabis is illegal in the United States. This recent study was supported by GW Pharmaceuticals. Findings were presented at the 2015 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.

Story by Marianne Greer.

You may also like...

Cannabidiol treatment: doctors versus patients

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


Comments: read the 11 comments or add yours


I was diagnosed with epilepsy at 37 years old in June 2014 after having absences for 3 or 4 months. I had seizures on and off until January his year. The only treatment I have used is cannabis, smoked, havent had a seizure since the end of January. The 28th of january was the last time I felt one coming on, I smoked a very strong joint, the feeling went away and I haven't had any feelings like that since. Neurologist refuses to discuss it with me, has had no interest in me since I refused to take the medication. They told me it would get worse without medication, but it stopped with cannabis. They said there's no evidence that that could be true, so I suppose I must be lying. Hope everyone is well.

Submitted by Ian on

I have Epilespsy, Narcolepsy, and Catalepsy. Can the Cannabidiol help me?

Submitted by Cynthi Hart on

Hi Cynthi
I don’t know about narcolepsy or catalepsy. Its early days to tell whether it will help a range of people with their epilepsy. But it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on the research findings.

Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

I've had epilepsy all my life. At 51 still uncontrolled, taken the AED's all my life. How sick and tired of them I am. Ketogenic Diet is a last resort but my GP cannot get me funding from NHS. I would like you to tell me where and what websites I can follow and look up real research documents to read everything that I can about this cannabinidol. Just a worry it took 12 years to get Keppra in to be accepted in England , will I still be alive when/if this got accepted here? Where can I look at it's official reports and write ups? please

Submitted by Claire on

Hi Claire
That must be so hard, never having had your seizures controlled. And the ketogenic diet is not readily available to adults.

Here is the information we have about cannabinidol:

There are trials going on in various parts of the world to see how useful CBD might be. For example it has been approved for testing in the USA. It has been tested on a range of children and adults including people with Dravet and Lennox Gastuax syndrome, two severe epilepsy syndromes.

Here is the latest research information from the USA

Here is Epilepsy Action’s position statement on cannabis research.

Here is the latest research from Australia

I don’t have any further links for you. But we will definitely be reporting on any updates in our magazine Epilepsy Today.

The medical research has only been carried out on a small number of people so far. So there is not yet enough information to know exactly how effective it will be. Or who it will work best for. But anything that helps us better understand what can control seizures has got to be a really good thing.

I am linking you to the information about our Seizure Control campaign just in case there is anything there that you haven’t already done to get the best seizure control possible.

I do hope some of this information is useful for you.

Epilepsy Action Advice and information team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

How would you get through customs if taking this? Would it be considered a 'classed drug'

Submitted by Tracey Jones on

Hi Tracy, it is against the law in the UK to be in possession of cannabis.
Mark, Epilepsy Action

Submitted by Mark@Epilepsy Action on

I have had epilepsy since 15 years old, and I am 54 now. I am just sick to death of medications, and more medications. I have NEVER been controlled, and this is getting old. I do believe cannabis can help the after effects of seizures, so why not before? I don't live in a state where it's legal, so I'll just keep taking medication, until someone can come up with something legal!

Submitted by Michele on

Hello Michele
I can hear that this is frustrating for you.

In the UK, the legal rules about Cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy are different to the US. Researchers in the UK are still looking in to the safety of cannabidiol as a treatment for epilepsy and experts are still divided over whether it should be used. We are aware that a recent study from the US has shown positive results though. As you can see from our position statement, we welcome research in to this area.

Maybe you could contact the Epilepsy Foundation to talk more about treatment in the US.

Epilepsy Action Advice & Information Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

Cannabidiol is not illegal in the UK. It can be bought in oil form online from a number of UK companies.

Submitted by Phil on

It would seem that cannabis is supposed to treat every illness. Patients that use this plant regularly are very enthusiastic, trained MDs - significantly less so.

Submitted by hatundalexander on

Question about your epilepsy?

Use our email helpline service -- your question will be sent directly to our trained helpline advisors who will reply to you. If you post a question about your epilepsy as a comment on a page, it may not be replied to so please use the email helpline service.

Want to talk to other people with epilepsy?

Take a look at forum4e our online community for people with epilepsy. Anyone with epilepsy over the age of 16 can join, from anywhere in the world.

Comment about this page?

We welcome feedback on the content of our website. If you have any comments about the page you were reading, then please complete the form below.

All comments are reviewed by a moderator before appearing on the site. Once the comment appears, your name and comment will be seen by other visitors to the site. Comments will be edited or deleted if they are offensive, libellous, slanderous, abusive, commercial or irrelevant. Comments may also be edited or deleted if they are not relevant to the page on which they are entered.

By making a comment through the website, you allow us to use the comment in our publicity without using your name. If we would like to use your name, we will email you to get your permission.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.