Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the topic of using cannabis as a treatment option for epilepsy is relevant among adult patients with the disorder and assess the possible determinant attitudes for having a history of cannabis consumption or being inclined to try it for medical purposes.
Material and methods: Willing adult (≥18 years) patients with diagnosed epilepsy participated in a cross-sectional survey study at a tertiary epilepsy center. The questions were related to cannabis use and opinions towards the safety and efficacy profile of cannabis for treating epilepsy.
Results: From 250 respondents, 41 (16.4%) reported prior use of cannabis or its preparations (15 [36.6%] for self-treatment). There were 81 (32.4%) participants further interested in cannabis use for treating epilepsy. In a binary regression model (Nagelkerke R2¯ = 0.331), the opinion that cannabis is safer because of its natural origin (β = 0.749, p = 0.027) and the premise of understanding its legal status (β = 0.418, p = 0.024) positively predicted which participants have reported cannabis use. These patients were also more likely to consult internet sources (p = 0.004) and agree that cannabis as an epilepsy treatment option is effective (U = 2231.5, p < 0.001), safe (U = 1822.0, p < 0.001) and has no side effects (U = 2470.5, p = 0.004). Patients who had not tried cannabis were more likely to envision the products as potentially addictive (p = 0.012) and presumably be deterred from using them due to beliefs in harmful effects (β = -0.632, p = 0.025). In general, nonusers were not inclined to try cannabis for treating epilepsy (Md = 2, range 1 to 7). However, those interested in the possibility of using cannabis to treat epilepsy would be more willing to try the respective preparations (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Among adult patients with epilepsy, we report no particularly high rate of cannabis use or interest in applying cannabis for medical purposes. In order to clarify the scientific and legal status of the preparations, treating neurologists should consult prior users and patients interested in the possibility of trying cannabis as an epilepsy remedy.
Keywords: Antiepileptic drugs; Attitudes; Cannabidiol; Cannabis; Epilepsy.