Six or seven years ago, I would have scoffed at the notion. My vague familiarity with the issue of marijuana as medicine was that people used it for pain and possibly nausea, and my assumptions were that it was generally a ruse for people looking for a legal high. It wasn’t until my eighteen-month-old daughter seized for forty-five minutes straight that I first looked any deeper. What I found surprised me.
About 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime. Many of them are children, some even younger than my daughter. The first time I faced a list of medication side effects from standard anti-epileptic drugs, I felt sick. Sedation, dizziness, memory loss, possible rage, trouble breathing, self harm, death. It was incomprehensible to sit and think of giving medications with terrible and potentially devastating side effects to a toddler, yet the alternative was just as terrifying.
It is at this point that some people have to make even more difficult decisions. There is a medication that may slow or stop some seizures- but it causes irreversible blindness as a side effect. Or brain surgery, if there is a clear place in the brain where the seizures start and removing it isn’t too dangerous. There are devices that can be implanted that deliver shocks to nerves that help reduce seizures. Despite the list of available treatments, 1 in 5 people with epilepsy will have seizures despite properly taking their medications. This greatly increases the chances of serious injury or death.