I was in absolute shock when I witnessed it. The seizure was real and the patient was a kid. He wasn’t suffering “grand mal” seizures, but they were convulsions alright, this was no joke or fake. A kid lies in bed while his brain is shooting “incoherent” electric impulses that cause the convulsions that we see. Those sparks in the brain cause all the muscles in the body to move without the patient wanting them to. Also, while that electric storm takes place in the brain, the body is trying to keep all the basic vital functions working, i.e. breathing, in order to stay alive. That’s what seizure means.
The seizure is a symptom of many different ailments. Its etiology changes in each case, but the final mechanism that causes it to happen is always the same. We have seen it in kids with different conditions that include epilepsy, being Dravet Syndrome the most well known. The ones that suffer from it (1 out of 16.000 to 1 out of 21.000 kids) are struck with almost continuous epileptic attacks, with all the harm this causes to growth and development in both physical and cognitive areas. Thanks to the parents’ struggle to try and find help for their children, the benefits of cannabis extract in these cases (and maybe many others) are becoming widely known today. No wonder, because the footage of these cases won’t leave anybody unmoved.
We have seen how the quality of life improves for these kids and their parents under the cannabis treatment. It’s not a cheap remark: these kids have terrible quality of life, but that also transfers to their whole family and specially their caregivers, usually the parents themselves. Imagine how hard it could be to not be able to leave your child’s side at all in fear of the next epileptic attack. Or imagine your sleep been broken and fragmented for years, for taking care of such a patient. It’s harmful and damaging for the caregiver: from the “caregiver burnout syndrome” to sleep and mental disorders, to memory, concentration and mood change problems that can ruin anyone’s life. In other words, the life quality of the people taking care of the ill is another variable that defines the ill ones’ life. One variable that is not being addressed properly. In many cases, kids don’t have a caregiver or have one that is burnt out and exhausted. The future is gloomier for these kids.
Nevertheless, the most striking thing that this video shows is not how well and fast a cannabinoid medicine acts on convulsions, but the route of administration: the foot’s sole.
I had never seen a drug being administered that way; although I knew about it. I specifically knew of a woman that had a lot of practice in using very toxic plants (the opposite of cannabis) that could be administered through certain body parts, foot’s sole amongst them. Nevertheless, in the case of cannabis, I had no idea that it could be administered in such way, or that such experiment had taken place: cannabis through the sole of the foot. Apart from it being curious, or unexpected, or funny…
(What relevance does it have?)
A lot. I will explain to you with a clear example from my own experience as a caregiver of people that suffered seizures from different origins. I was a coordinator (leisure activities) in an “urban campsite” that was developed by an association from Valladolid that worked with kids with Down’s Syndrome and other medical problems. It was set in Cádiz and the goal was to offer them a nice holiday while their families could get a bit of rest from a very tiring work. Amongst these kids, several suffered from epilepsy in different degrees: from seizures like the one in the video to the “grand mal”, with violent, uncontrolled movements. In those cases, you can only do but one thing (if you are trained to do it and have the resources) and that’s to hold the person down and try to avoid being hit by their knees, elbows or head and ending up with a broken nose or teeth. Then you administer a small liquid enema in the rectum that contains benzodiazepines, normally diazepam. You can use other devices that were specifically created for the worst cases. They contain a dose of midalozam (i.e. Buccolam) that can be administered in a way that is safe for both patient and caregiver, and will make the seizure reduce if not disappear. The dose is administered by using an injection prepared for the patient’s mouth. Or else you can wait while the convulsions stop, call the emergency services and prevent any extra harm. Nothing else… until today.
When I saw that this remedy was used via the feet, I freaked out because I never thought the substance could be absorbed so well and fast, in a chemical level and because of the skin permeability. But I was also shocked at how fast it caused an effect. It is not a minor thing: the less time the person suffers the shaking state, the less damage to the brain and the less risks of secondary and permanent damage. It is essential to reduce the time of the seizures, and the foot remedy does that.
I pictured myself in some of the cases in which I had to act: using my bigger size and physical strength and the teachings I learned. I imagined how easy it would have been to immobilize only one foot or both feet. I compared that to having to hold down somebody who’s throwing arms and legs around totally out of control, while you try to get their clothes off so you can reach their anus, while at the same time trying to keep one hand free and out of harm’s way, because you are using it to hold the plastic bottle containing the remedy. Can you imagine that? It is way easier to control their feet than it is to do all that. Easier and safer for the caregivers.
This type of administration route for cannabis might be studied in the future but as of today, we haven’t heard of such a research. Why? Because the recreational drug users are not the only ones to fall victims of the war on drugs. Ill people are being denied the best pharmacologic treatments for no other reason than plain awful drug policies. These policies have prevented, and to a certain point still prevent, research on the medical use of hundreds of substances that have been banned, cannabis amongst them.
The problem is not that new options are not worth studying. The problem is that, even if it’s the best option and the most promising one, such studies face a really hard road. The obstacles for medical research of any of the substances object of the hunt in the war on drugs discourage even the biggest organizations that could be economically fit to perform them. For investigators in more modest environments, it’s something absolutely out of reach.
One gram of psilocybin, for instance, the substance found in “magic mushrooms”, would cost a researcher €10.000. That’s after years of paperwork to get the authorization. You could get a gram of that very substance, growing the mushrooms in your own house, for an irrelevant sum compared to what the researchers are being asked to pay. Or you could buy a gram of good MDMA with a high degree of purity for less than €50 without leaving your neighborhood, while an authorized researcher would see the bill soar to several thousand Euros a gram. That truly is “drug abuse”. It causes harm to society and to individuals: the patients that could already benefit from research, and their caregivers. More victims of this ignorant war against knowledge and people’s freedom.
In the words of David Nutt –who was UK’s Drug Czar for a year, until he started telling the truth about drugs and using real statistics-, it’s black and white: “We face one of the greatest examples of scientific censorship of modern times”. It’s a total failure when the people who have the worst chances to work with drugs are the scientists trained precisely to do so.
Not long ago, a friend told me that some people in certain forums said that medical cannabis “is a lie, made up by junkies to legalize drugs”. To those people, and to all politicians responsible for the population being victims of these laws, I dedicate this piece and the video: I hope they never have a child that needs a treatment that the law restricts unfairly.