A patient story excerpt from Cannabis Revealed: How the World’s Most Misunderstood Plant is Healing Everything from Chronic Pain to Epilepsy
I sensed true desperation almost immediately when Rebecca brought her son Gavin in to see me. The despair was nearly palpable, even in Gavin’s two grandmothers who had accompanied them to the office. Gavin himself appeared oblivious to his surroundings, made little to no eye contact and was very hyperactive and distracted, moving around the office the entire time. A cute child wearing a little fedora and glasses, his face showed little affect and we made no connection. “We need help so badly,” the small group said to me, “we can no longer live like this.”
Rebecca is a stay at home mother with a special education degree whose first child Gavin was born six weeks early. While he had low muscle tone, something you’d expect from a preemie, he also didn’t reach his early milestones, and at around age two, Gavin’s health and development began to really fall apart. He was nearly two when he walked and had little to no language at age three. Ultimately diagnosed with complex partial seizures, cerebral palsy and an unknown genetic anomaly, as well as cyclical vomiting and autism, Gavin was prescribed the anticonvulsant Keppra for his seizures. He was three years old, and the effects were immediate. While the seizures stopped, Gavin’s autistic behaviors increased, and within two months his meltdowns became uncontrollable. Rebecca and her husband had read about “Keppra rage,” a well-documented side effect, but they wanted to control the seizures and were hesitant to take him off of the drug or add another one. During this time, Rebecca saw the CNN documentary “Weed” and began to explore cannabis as a possible treatment. When she asked Gavin’s neurologist about trying cannabis, he ignorantly asked her if she was going to “blow smoke in his face.” She was discouraged by this response but kept searching online for information and found support on Facebook. She eventually brought Gavin to my office in early 2014. With his behavior out of control, life with Gavin had become a daily struggle.
I started Gavin on CBD-rich cannabis oil, given by mouth. The effects were immediate. Within 10 days, Gavin, previously non-verbal, began speaking. The change was so dramatic that Rebecca wanted to try weaning him off the Keppra to see if his seizures might also be controlled. She switched neurologists and found a supportive partner who helped her to wean Gavin off Keppra over five months. When he was completely off the drug, an initial EEG showed some seizure activity, but Rebecca asked for three months to adjust the dosage of CBD before trying other pharmaceuticals. The subsequent 48-hour EEG showed no seizure activity, and Gavin hasn’t needed any further antiepileptic medications.
Although the use of CBD-rich oil for a number of months resulted in seizure freedom, improved verbal ability and improved behavior, Gavin continued to have some unwanted behaviors related to his autism. It was at this point that we added THC-rich oil in the mornings and afternoons to help him to be calm and focused. As we hoped, his behavior improved significantly.
Rebecca still marvels at the dramatic turnaround in Gavin due to cannabis medicine. In addition to seizure control, Gavin’s incredible improvements in speech and autistic behaviors thrill her the most. Although everyone who knew Gavin saw that he was quite intelligent (even the speech pathologist had given him an iPad with communication apps because they knew his capabilities), he had no real language or any imaginary play. One afternoon soon after Gavin began taking CBD oil, Rebecca was in her bedroom folding laundry. She looked up to see Gavin walking in with the laundry basket. He placed it on the floor, stepped into it and declared, “Look, Mom! I’m an astronaut!”
Rebecca has had to experiment with the dose and ratio of CBD and THC, and has ultimately found that an overall CBD:THC ratio of 1:1 is giving him the best results. Despite a relatively high dose of THC, Gavin has no adverse side effects from cannabis use. He does not experience any psychoactivity. He is able to make connections in his kindergarten class, to fit in with his peers and to transition throughout the day with ease. He is happy and thriving, and reports from school are outstanding. The speech pathologist has even taken away the iPad with the communication apps because he doesn’t need it anymore!
Gavin is now five years old, and his story moves me as both physician and mother. When Rebecca sent me a video recently of him reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and breaking into “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” I was moved to tears. Although not every patient has this level of improvement, Gavin’s story is an example of why cannabis treatment must be an available option for all children with severe medical conditions. His quality of life has been improved so significantly that he is able to participate in his life fully as all children deserve.
Dr. Bonni is offering a special 4/20 discount on her recently published book, Cannabis Revealed: How the World’s Most Misunderstood Plant is Healing Everything from Chronic Pain to Epilepsy. Pick up a copy today for $19.99 at Create Space.