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Intractable Seizures

Intractable seizures, also known as refractory or drug-resistant epilepsy, are a challenging form of epilepsy in which an individual continues to experience seizures despite treatment with multiple anti-seizure medications. These seizures can severely impact a person’s quality of life, increasing the risk of injury, cognitive impairment, and psychosocial difficulties. Intractable seizures are often difficult to manage, necessitating a comprehensive approach involving various therapies and interventions. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and potential treatment options for intractable seizures, including emerging therapies and alternative approaches that may provide relief for those living with this debilitating condition.

What is Intractable Seizures?

Intractable seizures, also known as refractory or drug-resistant epilepsy, refer to a form of epilepsy where an individual continues to experience seizures despite trying multiple anti-seizure medications. This condition can be challenging to manage and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.


The symptoms of intractable seizures are similar to those of other types of epilepsy and may include:

  1. Recurrent seizures: Frequent seizures that occur despite treatment with various anti-seizure medications.
  2. Varying seizure types: An individual may experience different types of seizures, such as focal (partial) seizures, generalized seizures, or both.
  3. Postictal symptoms: Fatigue, confusion, or headache may follow a seizure episode.


The causes of intractable seizures can be complex and may include:

  1. Genetic factors: A genetic predisposition may contribute to the development of drug-resistant epilepsy.
  2. Structural abnormalities: Brain malformations, tumors, or previous brain injuries can lead to intractable seizures.
  3. Metabolic disorders: Certain metabolic disorders can affect the brain’s electrical activity, resulting in drug-resistant epilepsy.
  4. Incomplete response to medication: Some individuals may not respond adequately to anti-seizure medications due to factors such as improper dosing, medication interactions, or poor adherence.


While it may not be possible to prevent intractable seizures entirely, some strategies can help minimize the risk of developing drug-resistant epilepsy:

  1. Early intervention: Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help reduce the likelihood of developing intractable seizures.
  2. Medication management: Ensuring proper dosing and adherence to prescribed medications can improve seizure control.
  3. Monitoring and adjusting treatment: Regular check-ups with healthcare providers can help monitor progress and adjust treatment strategies as needed.

It is essential to work closely with a healthcare professional experienced in epilepsy management if you or a loved one is experiencing intractable seizures. A comprehensive approach, including medication adjustments, alternative therapies, and lifestyle modifications, may help improve seizure control and enhance the quality of life for those living with this challenging condition.

Medical Marijuana as a Treatment for Intractable Seizures

Medical marijuana has gained attention in recent years as a potential treatment for intractable seizures, particularly in cases where traditional anti-seizure medications have proven ineffective. The cannabinoids found in medical marijuana interact with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating various physiological processes, including neuronal excitability and seizure activity.

How does medical marijuana help?

Medical marijuana may help alleviate intractable seizures through several mechanisms:

  1. Anticonvulsant effects: Certain cannabinoids, particularly CBD, have demonstrated anticonvulsant properties that can help reduce seizure frequency and intensity.
  2. Neuroprotection: Cannabinoids may help protect brain cells from damage caused by seizures and promote neuronal health.
  3. Modulation of neurotransmitter release: Medical marijuana can affect the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as GABA and glutamate, which play a role in seizure activity.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes for Intractable Seizures

Several cannabinoids and terpenes may be particularly effective in addressing intractable seizures:

  1. CBD (cannabidiol): CBD has been the most extensively studied cannabinoid for its anticonvulsant properties. It has shown promise in reducing seizure frequency and severity in some individuals with drug-resistant epilepsy, without causing psychoactive side effects.
  2. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): Although THC is best known for its psychoactive effects, it may also possess some anticonvulsant properties. However, due to its potential to cause psychoactive side effects, its use in treating seizures is more controversial.
  3. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid): THCA is a non-psychoactive precursor to THC that has demonstrated anticonvulsant properties in preclinical studies. Further research is needed to determine its efficacy in humans.
  4. Linalool: Linalool is a terpene with potential sedative and anticonvulsant effects, which may contribute to its therapeutic benefits in managing intractable seizures.
  5. Limonene: Limonene is a terpene that exhibits neuroprotective and anxiolytic effects, potentially providing additional support for individuals with drug-resistant epilepsy.

It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional experienced in cannabinoid medicine when considering medical marijuana as a treatment for intractable seizures. They can help determine the appropriate strains, ratios of cannabinoids, and dosages tailored to an individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Further research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects and efficacy of medical marijuana in managing intractable seizures and drug-resistant epilepsy.

Dosage and Consumption Methods

Recommended dosage:

Figuring out the right dose of medical marijuana can be hard because people’s reactions to cannabinoids and terpenes can be very different. Factors such as the specific condition being treated, the patient’s weight, metabolism, and prior experience with cannabis all play a role in determining the right dosage.
Most of the time, it is best to start with a low dose and slowly increase it until you get the effects you want while minimising any possible side effects. For patients who are new to medical marijuana, starting with 2.5–5 mg of THC or CBD and slowly titrating upwards is often advised.

However, consulting a healthcare professional experienced in medical marijuana is essential to developing a personalised dosing plan tailored to the patient’s needs.

Consumption methods:

There are several methods of consuming medical marijuana, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Some common consumption methods include:

  1. Inhalation (smoking or vaping): Inhalation provides rapid onset of effects, usually within minutes, making it suitable for patients requiring immediate relief. However, smoking may pose respiratory risks, while vaping has been associated with lung injuries in some cases.
  2. Oral ingestion (edibles, capsules, tinctures): Ingesting medical marijuana provides longer-lasting effects compared to inhalation but has a slower onset, typically taking 30 minutes to 2 hours for effects to be felt. This method is suitable for patients requiring sustained relief but may require careful dosing to avoid overconsumption.
  3. Topical application (creams, balms, patches): Topicals can provide localised relief for conditions such as arthritis or skin disorders without producing psychoactive effects. The onset of action and duration of effects can vary depending on the product formulation and individual absorption rates.
  4. Sublingual administration (tinctures, dissolvable strips): Sublingual products are absorbed through the mucous membranes under the tongue, providing rapid onset of effects without the need for inhalation or ingestion. This method offers discreet consumption and precise dosing.

Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card

Why get a medical marijuana card?

Getting a medical marijuana card is helpful for patients who are looking for other ways to treat their conditions.

  1. Legal protection: A medical marijuana card allows patients to possess, use, and in some cases, cultivate cannabis for medical purposes, within their state’s legal limits.
  2. Access to quality products: Medical marijuana dispensaries offer a wide range of tested and regulated cannabis products, ensuring patients receive safe and effective medication.
  3. Tax savings: In some states, medical marijuana patients are exempt from certain taxes applied to recreational cannabis sales.
  4. Professional guidance: Medical marijuana cardholders have access to healthcare professionals who can provide personalised recommendations, dosing advice, and ongoing support.

How to apply:

The process of obtaining a medical marijuana card varies by state but generally involves the following steps:

  1. Consult with medical marijuana consultants to determine if medical marijuana is appropriate for your condition and obtain a written recommendation.
  2. Complete an application with the required documentation, including proof of residency, identification, and the healthcare professional’s recommendation.
  3. Submit the application to the appropriate state agency, along with any required fees.
  4. Await approval and issuance of the medical marijuana card.

Risks and Side Effects

Potential risks:

While medical marijuana can offer relief and improve the quality of life for many patients, it also carries certain risks and side effects. Some potential risks associated with medical marijuana use include:

  1. Dependency and addiction: Although the risk of addiction is considered lower than that of opioids or alcohol, some individuals may develop a dependency on cannabis.
  2. Impaired cognitive function: THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, can impair memory, attention, and reaction times, particularly with prolonged or heavy use.
  3. Respiratory issues: Smoking cannabis can cause respiratory problems, including bronchitis and lung irritation. Vaping has also been linked to lung injuries in some cases.
  4. Mental health concerns: High doses of THC or predisposition to mental health disorders can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia, or exacerbate existing mental health conditions.
  5. Drug interactions: Medical marijuana may interact with other medications, either enhancing or diminishing their effects. It is essential to discuss potential drug interactions with a healthcare professional before starting medical marijuana therapy.


Medical marijuana might not be right for every patient, especially those who already have certain health problems or risk factors. Contraindications to medical marijuana use may include:

  1. Personal or family history of substance abuse or addiction
  2. Severe liver or kidney disease
  3. Severe cardiovascular disease
  4. Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  5. History of psychosis or other severe mental health disorders
  6. Allergies or hypersensitivity to cannabis or its components

Legal Status

Where is it legal?

In the United States, the laws about medical marijuana are always changing. Currently, over 30 states and the District of Columbia allow its use under certain conditions. Each state has its own rules and a list of medical conditions that are allowed to use medical marijuana.

Even though some states have made medical marijuana legal, it is still illegal at the federal level because it is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

This difference between state and federal laws can make it harder for medical marijuana patients to get jobs, find housing, or travel across state lines, among other things. Patients should research their state’s guidelines and remain aware of potential legal risks.


Medical marijuana could help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for many people with long-term or debilitating illnesses.

When thinking about this treatment option, it’s important to know the right dose, how to use it, how to get a medical marijuana card, possible risks, side effects, and legal status.

Work closely with a doctor or nurse who knows a lot about medical marijuana to find out if it is a good and safe choice for your needs.

As the legal landscape surrounding medical marijuana continues to evolve, staying informed about changing regulations and guidelines is essential to ensuring responsible and compliant use.

As the field of medical marijuana continues to evolve, it’s crucial for patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers to stay informed about the latest research and developments. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the current landscape, but it’s always important to consult with healthcare providers for personalized advice.

Note: This article’s content is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or queries regarding laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult a lawyer, physician, or other licensed practitioner.