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The Pharmacological Basis of Cannabis Therapy for Epilepsy.

ABSTRACT

Recently, cannabis has been suggested as a potential alternative therapy for refractory epilepsy, which affects 30% of epilepsy, both adults and children, who do not respond to current medications. There is a large unmet medical need for new antiepileptics that would not interfere with normal function in patients with refractory epilepsy and conditions associated with refractory seizures. The two chief cannabinoids are Δ-9-tetrahyrdrocannabinol, the major psychoactive component of marijuana, and cannabidiol (CBD), the major nonpsychoactive component of marijuana. Claims of clinical efficacy in epilepsy of CBD-predominant cannabis or medical marijuana come mostly from limited studies, surveys, or case reports. However, the mechanisms underlying the antiepileptic efficacy of cannabis remain unclear. This article highlights the pharmacological basis of cannabis therapy, with an emphasis on the endocannabinoid mechanisms underlying the emerging neurotherapeutics of CBD in epilepsy. CBD is anticonvulsant, but it has a low affinity for the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2; therefore the exact mechanism by which it affects seizures remains poorly understood. A rigorous clinical evaluation of pharmaceutical CBD products is needed to establish the safety and efficacy of their use in the treatment of epilepsy. Identification of mechanisms underlying the anticonvulsant efficacy of CBD is also critical for identifying other potential treatment options.