CBD is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals in the marijuana plant. Unlike the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not produce euphoria or intoxication. Cannabinoids have their effect mainly by interacting with specific receptors on cells in the brain and body: the CB1 receptor, found on neurons and glial cells in various parts of the brain, and the CB2 receptor, found mainly in the body’s immune system. The euphoric effects of THC are caused by its activation of CB1 receptors. CBD has a very low affinity for these receptors (100 fold less than THC) and when it binds it produces little to no effect. There is also growing evidence that CBD acts on other brain signaling systems, and that these actions may be important contributors to its therapeutic effects.
Rigorous clinical studies are still needed to evaluate the clinical potential of CBD for specific conditions. However, pre-clinical research (including both cell culture and animal models) has shown CBD to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties.
A number of studies over the last two decades or more have reported that CBD has anti-seizure activity, reducing the severity of seizures in animal models. In addition, there have been a number of case studies and anecdotal reports suggesting that CBD may be effective in treating children with drug-resistant epilepsy. However, there have only been a few small randomized clinical trials examining the efficacy of CBD as a treatment for epilepsy; the total number of subjects enrolled in these studies was 48. Three of the four studies reported positive results, including decreased frequency of seizures. However, the studies suffered from significant design flaws, including failure to fully quantify baseline seizure frequency, inadequate statistical analysis, and a lack of sufficient detail to adequately evaluate and interpret the findings. Therefore, the currently available information is insufficient to draw firm conclusions regarding the efficacy of CBD as a treatment for epilepsy; a recent Cochrane review concluded, there is a need for “a series of properly designed, high quality, and adequately powered trials.”
NIDA is currently collaborating with the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke to evaluate CBD in animal models of epilepsy in order to understand the underlying mechanisms and optimize the conditions under which CBD may treat seizure disorders, and determine whether it works synergistically with other anti-seizure medications. In addition, clinical trials are currently underway by GW Pharmaceuticals, testing the efficacy of Epidiolex, a purified CBD extract, for treatment of pediatric epilepsy.
Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse
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