As the battle to make marijuana legal across the United States continues, more examples of how the plant is helping to ease the symptoms of many serious diseases also appear. Many of these cases are of children who, after being treated with CBD oil, are able to live a normal and happy life.
One such case is that of Annalise Lujan, who was diagnosed with infection-related epilepsy syndrome in April. For Annalise, the disorder came on suddenly and caused her to have continuous seizures. The condition, also known as FIRES, has been known to lead to brain injury and even death.
In order to protect Annalise, doctors at the Banner-University Medical Center decided to put her into a medically-induced coma until they could find a way to prevent further brain damage. Annalise spent a total of 18 days on a ventilator, spending her 12th birthday in a coma before being airlifted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“One day, she was just a healthy young lady, going to school, participating in her community and her gymnastics, and the next day—fighting for her life,” Estrada-Lujan, Annalise’s mother, told the NBC affiliate in Tucson.
Desperate to find a viable treatment for her daughter, Estrada-Lujan spent time researching the condition. During this time, she learned about CBD and began advocating its use in Annalise’s treatment.
Cannabidiol is a natural molecule found in cannabis. One of the most exciting cannabinoids, Cannabidiol (CBD) is not psychoactive in the way THC is and has been proven to be an effective treatment for neurological disorders.
“I wanted to know if my daughter was eligible,” she says. “Dr Wilfong was new to Arizona and didn’t have his license to use it here, so he got with his partner, Dr John Kerrigan, who had his license for this Schedule 1 drug.”
Dr Angus Wilfong was part of a team of doctors who published a study last year that aimed to determine the effectiveness of using cannabidiol to treat FIRES.
Dr Eric Marsh, assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has been treating patients with this mysterious form of epilepsy since 2000. Dr Marsh was one of the doctors who co-authored the study.
The study found that CBD reduced the frequency and duration of seizures, allowing the patients to be weaned off other medications.
“This stems from the whole medicinal marijuana craze that is out there,” Marsh said. “There are lots of anecdotes that were on social media that suggested that marijuana high in cannabidiol and very low in THC could be anti-epileptic.”
Less than 48 hours after the first CBD treatment, Annalise’s seizures stopped. “CBD oil saved her life,” Estrada-Lujan said.
In the state of Arizona, medical marijuana was made legal in 2010. However, as it is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug at a federal level, the doctors had to receive expedited approval from both the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration before beginning treatment.
Today, Annalise is breathing on her own and can follow basic commands. “Open your mouth. Squeeze my finger. Stick out your tongue,” Estrada-Lujan says. The extent of the brain damage is still uncertain, and will gradually be uncovered as Annalise continues with her therapy. She still has seizures, and within the last week or two she has had a few that lasted between 8 and 10 seconds, however, they are no longer continuous.