On Friday, September 28, 2018, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made an important announcement concerning the use of an alternative medication called Epidiolex. Once introduced into the drug market, physicians will have the freedom to prescribe it to patients suffering from epilepsy. What is especially interesting about this drug? The primary ingredient in Epidiolex is cannabidiol (CBD), a naturally occurring substance in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Pending approval, this decision will mark a significant turn in the debate concerning medical and recreational marijuana. Before we look at the statistics about the drug, let’s take a look at its primary component.
Cannabidiol Oil (CBD)
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 113 chemical substances (cannabinoids) found in the buds and flowers of the marijuana plant. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is primarily responsible for inducing euphoric “highs” if consumed, cannabidiol does not induce potentially harmful side effects. Over 30 U.S. states have legalized the distribution of CBD, with an additional 17 states developing laws that are specific to the sale of this chemical (as an alternative to marijuana).
Distribution to Epileptics
Distributed as a lower ranking Schedule-V drug, Epidiolex has received positive feedback from medical professionals, who have praised the drug for its effect on two rare forms of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome). Family members of patients reported that Epidiolex suppressed the onset of severe seizures, based on three separate studies of the drug’s effectiveness.
Overall, FDA faced complications due to the status of the source of Epidiolex. Prior to approval, CBD was labeled as a Schedule 1 drug (the same class containing heroin and LSD) because it is derived from marijuana. Final approval involved tests for the count of THC, which was ultimately reduced to >0.1% to ensure Epidiolex could be legalized.
Problems with CBD
One problem with the CBD trials is the singular study on epilepsy. Clinical trials have been conducted on animals to test the drug’s effectiveness as an antidepressant or relaxant, but little control has been exercised over the substance. Some doctors also argue that CBD-oil, a variant of cannabidiol, cannot be successfully absorbed through oral consumption (20% of the chemical passes into the bloodstream). Meanwhile, additional risks may include an increase in liver enzymes and, of course, the presence of trace amounts of THC.
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