Cannabidiol for Epilepsy

Quick Overview

Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from cannabis, has shown promise in treating epilepsy. Studies have found that CBD can reduce seizure frequency in children and young adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy, particularly in those with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. However, CBD does have side effects, including somnolence, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and vomiting. It is important to conduct further research and clinical trials to determine the optimal dosage and safety of CBD for epilepsy treatment.


In a presentation at the 2016 ASF-Dup15q Scientific Symposium, Orrin Devinsky discussed the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of epilepsy. He began by providing a brief history of cannabis in medicine, highlighting its use in ancient civilizations for various ailments, including epilepsy. Devinsky then delved into the scientific evidence supporting the use of CBD for epilepsy, including animal studies that have shown its anti-convulsant effects.

The Different Species of Cannabis

Devinsky explained that there are two major species of cannabis – cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. He noted that these species have been heavily interbred over the years, making it difficult to distinguish between them. He also mentioned that there are over 540 unique compounds found in cannabis, with cannabinoids being the most well-known. THC is the most studied cannabinoid and is known for its psychoactive effects, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has a different mechanism of action.

The Effectiveness of CBD for Epilepsy

Devinsky discussed the growing interest in CBD for the treatment of epilepsy, citing a YouTube video of a girl named Charlotte who experienced a significant reduction in seizures after using a CBD-rich strain of cannabis. He also mentioned that 24 US states have legalized medical marijuana, despite it being classified as a Schedule I compound by the federal government. Devinsky emphasized the need for scientific evidence to support the use of CBD and highlighted the importance of conducting randomized double-blind studies.

Results of CBD Trials

Devinsky presented the results of an open-label trial of CBD involving 313 children and young adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy. The trial showed that approximately 50% of the participants experienced a reduction in seizures, with 13% of those with Dravet syndrome becoming seizure-free. He also discussed the challenges faced in studying medical cannabis, including the high placebo response rates in children and the naturalistic fallacy that assumes natural compounds are always safe and effective.

Safety and Side Effects

Devinsky acknowledged that CBD does have side effects, including somnolence, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and vomiting. He also mentioned that CBD can interact with other medications, such as Clobazam, leading to increased levels of certain metabolites. However, he stressed the importance of conducting further research to fully understand the safety and efficacy of CBD.


Devinsky concluded his presentation by discussing the need for more scientific studies on the use of CBD for epilepsy. He highlighted ongoing dose-ranging studies and expressed hope that the FDA would approve CBD for the treatment of epilepsy based on the positive results seen in recent trials. He also emphasized the importance of conducting further research on the effects of THC alone or in combination with CBD.

Talk details

  • Title: Cannabidiol for Epilepsy
  • Author(s): Orrin Devinsky
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
  • Publication date: 2016-09-06
  • Collection: 2016 ASF-Dup15q Scientific Symposium