Newfound Brain Pathway May Let Epilepsy Patients Steer Around Medical Marijuana’s Side Effects

Photo Credit: Stanford Medicine Scope

Photo Credit: Stanford Medicine Scope

As medical marijuana gains in popularity and legalization efforts gain momentum throughout the United States, patients look to the plant to provide therapeutic relief without the negative side effects a pharmaceutical medication might provide. Many patients who suffer from epilepsy, or parents of these patients, use medical marijuana to reduce seizure frequency, but not every patient experiences success. I one recent open-label trial involving 162 patients with severe intractable, childhood-onset epilepsy, over a third witnessed a reduction in seizure frequency, but four out of five patients suffered negative side effects, with 30% suffering severe adverse events.

Now, new research published in Neuron suggests Stanford neuroscientist Ivan Soltesz, PhD, and his colleagues may have discovered a brain pathway which allows a way to enhance cannabis' therapeutic relief while preventing adverse side effects. Researchers mapped out an unexplored molecular pathway in which endocannabinoids mediate cannabis-related effects on normal brain functions and discovered that, by blocking this pathway, they could prevent the deficits cannabis causes. This discovery is significant in that it creates the potential for medical marijuana to work alongside another drug that blocks this pathway, allowing even those who would have previously suffered negative side effects to find relief in the cannabis-based therapy.

This information has been provided be the Stanford Medicine Scope and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.