For decades, outdated laws have banned a plant that produces what may become one of the most important medicines for modern disease. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a completely non-psychoactive chemical component of the cannabis plant, and it has shown effectiveness in treating anxiety, chronic pain, vomiting, inflammation and convulsions, as well as slowing or even terminating the advancement of cancerous cells. However, the biggest challenge in the widespread distribution of CBD has been the inability of many researchers to perform a complete set of trials and research due the U.S. Government’s classification of cannabis and its components as a Schedule 1 Drug. Clinical researchers are required to be licensed by the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), studies must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and research-grade cannabis must be obtained from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Despite these bureaucratic hurdles, research into the medical benefits of CBD is still moving forward. In May 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine published a clinical study showing that CBD reduces seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. This landmark study is the first to show solid evidence for the use of cannabinoids to treat epilepsy.
120 children with Dravet syndrome, with ages ranging from 2 to 18 years, took part in the 14-week study. While staying on their normal treatment program, half of the patients also received cannabidiol while the remainder were given a placebo. While the median number of seizures roughly stayed the same in the placebo group, the cannabidiol group saw a decrease from 12.4 to 5.9 per month. In addition, seizures disappeared entirely for 5 percent of the patients taking cannabidiol, compared with none in the placebo group.
Further studies will be necessary to show that results can be replicated, but this is a significant step forward for patient access. While more research on CBD’s benefits and effects is necessary, the power of the chemical is undisputed.