Medical Marijuana to Treat Seizures

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Playing Searching for Treatment for Seizures

Caden has had seizures since the day he was born. He had his first grand mal seizure, characterized by violent muscle contractions and loss of consciousness, at 2 months old. That's when he was diagnosed with catastrophic epilepsy.

"He was seizing nonstop all day, every day," his mom, Kim, says.

Over the past 10 years, Kim and her husband, Chris, have tried 17 different drug combinations to stop Caden's seizures. Some reduced the frequency of the seizures, but they often returned and got more severe as his body adjusted to the medication. In addition, the medications caused side effects that further reduced his quality of life.

After Caden started having drop seizures, when he fell to the ground like someone hit him, his parents grew concerned that he'd injure himself. He wore a helmet to protect his head, and his doctors recommended a right frontal lobotomy.

Weeks after the surgery, Caden had a stroke, damaging another part of his brain.

"It was absolutely devastating," Kim says. Hope ... gone."

"We'd accepted the fact that Caden was going to die from these seizures," Chris tells The Doctors.

That's when Kim began to consider medical marijuana, an option that was complicated, because Chris is a veteran narcotics officer.

"I was overwhelmed by it in the beginning," Kim says. "Marijuana? To my 10-year-old?"

Since starting the medical marijuana, Caden has seen an 85 to 90 percent reduction in seizures.

"This treatment has changed everything," Kim says. "I'm getting to see my son and know my son for the first time." 

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork and pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears explain how the strain of marijuana called Charlotte's Web that is used to treat seizures and other conditions is different from pot that is used recreationally.

"Charlotte's Web has created a groundswell of support amongst parents who have had no other hope," Dr. Travis says.

But, The Doctors note, there still is resistance.

"It's almost like it's a different compound than marijuana, because it doesn't give you that high," Dr. Sears says. "I wish the medical establishments would start to recognize this particular thing is something different and maybe the FDA could change it's classification so there wasn't this taboo against it."

In Kim's case, she and her son moved to Colorado so she legally could treat her son with medical marijuana.

“In the United States, our country, it now depends on your zip code as to whether or not your child can try this life-saving treatment or not, and I just feel like this should not be,” Kim says.

  • See previous coverage of Charlotte's Web on The Doctors.
  • See CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta discuss the benefits of medical marijuana on The Doctors.