Marijuana as medicine: Two Houston families struggle with epilepsy

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HOUSTON — Marijuana as medicine.  Texas is late to the game, but late is better than never for two families in Greater Houston struggling with epilepsy.

For 9-year-old Zachary Lindeen, 27-year-old Britton Holman, and both of their families, the wait for CBD marijuana is finally over.

The Texas Compassionate Use Act passed in 2015.  It allows for low THC content, high CBD (or cannabidiol) content marijuana to be prescribed for the treatment of intractable epilepsy.

“He’s tried eight different medications and then you know combinations of medications it’s a much bigger number,” says Piper Lindeen, Zachary’s mother.

“Nothing else was working and I would research and I would find these incredible stories and I knew people who were moving to try to get to medical marijuana,” says Teresa Holman, Britton’s mother.

NewsFix was there in January as the first legal marijuana harvest finally took place, just south of Austin, at one of the three licensed dispensaries in Texas at Compassionate Cultivation.

“We planted our first seed on October 31st…there’s no silver bullet, right, and all medicine effects people differently but for many many people, CBD has the ability to be a transformational medicine,” says Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation.

“It’s possible that perhaps 40% to 50% of folks can have a good outcome,” says Dr. Michael Newmark of Kelsey Seybold. His patients are excited for this new “arrow in the quiver,” as he calls it, in the fight to control epilepsy.

“I think it’s a safe medication,” Dr. Newmark adds. “In the research that’s been published so far it’s been moderately helpful in children, who often have the worst seizure control.”

Success for CBD is going to be measured in seizure control.  And for parents that see a reduction in seizures for their children, it’s a much-needed lifeline.

Britton’s family’s struggle isn’t with epilepsy alone, but also autism.  He communicates with his family mostly via a touch pad tool very similar to typing.

When Britton’s shoulder was so badly injured by repeated dislocation from seizures that he could no longer communicate, the Holman’s began treating Britton with CBD processed from hemp oil.

“If we do surgery, he’ll have a seizure and tear this up— CBD made this possible. It made it possible and now we’ve gone six weeks, and that’s the longest, so we’re hoping, hoping for even longer and longer periods of time,” Holman said.

The Lindeens hold that same hope, but with a bit of reservation.

“Hoping to find help for epilepsy through the Texas cannabis program as it stands is like trying to find your soulmate on the dating game, you know you’re given three options…I think it’s going to happen for a lot of patients but I think that odds aren’t great. “why would we want to limit ourselves to just two or three strains cannabis when there are so many options out there,” says Mrs. Lindeen.

Like all other epilepsy treatments, you never know which will work and which won’t until you try them.

Parents with children suffering through epilepsy, as you might expect, are a very connected group online.  Parents in Texas know that marijuana treatment with slightly higher levels of THC is also effective, and in some cases more so.

“There is a rescue spray a rescue spray, with THC that will stop a seizure at the longest, 20 seconds. 20 seconds would have saved his shoulder,” explains Mrs. Holman.

“Why would we want to limit ourselves to just two or three strains cannabis when there are so many options out there?” asks Mrs. Lindeen.

Both families have heard the opposition to marijuana as medicine, and don’t come from backgrounds that celebrated recreational use which is still illegal in Texas.

“In junior high and high school, I was actively involved in teens against drugs,” Mrs. Lindeen explained. “I realized it wasn’t the issue that we had been taught that it was.”

“I’ve always been very against it. And I didn’t want my kids to use it, I thought that would change their futures…medical marijuana is not the same thing as recreational marijuana… I know that we want for seizures, but what about cancer? What about all these other people that need it?” says Mrs. Holman.

So while the Texas Compassionate Use Act is a first step for Texas, many parents and patients hope that whether results are pass or fail, it isn’t the last step Texas takes when it comes to medicinal marijuana.

“I don’t want marijuana so that my son can smoke marijuana, I want marijuana so my son can have a future, so that he can believe that he doesn’t have to lay in his bed afraid that if he stands up or goes somewhere that he’s going to have a seizure in the middle of whatever.  Because that’s not living,” Mrs. Holman said.

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