The Potential Proconvulsant Effects of Cannabis: a Scoping Review

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Journal of medical toxicology : official journal of the American College of Medical Toxicology


INTRODUCTION: Cannabis' effect on seizure activity is an emerging topic that remains without consensus and merits further investigation. We therefore performed a scoping review to identify the available evidence and knowledge gaps within the existing literature on cannabis product exposures as a potential cause of seizures in humans. METHODS: A scoping review was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews guidelines. The PubMed and Scopus databases were searched over a 20-year period from the date of the database query (12/21/2020). Inclusion criteria were (1) English language original research articles, (2) inclusion of human subjects, and (3) either investigation of seizures as a part of recreational cannabinoid use OR of exogenous cannabinoids as a cause of seizures. RESULTS: A total of 3104 unique articles were screened, of which 68 underwent full-text review, and 13 met inclusion/exclusion criteria. Ten of 11 studies evaluating acute cannabis exposures reported a higher seizure incidence than would be expected based on the prevalence of epilepsy in the general and pediatric populations (range 0.7-1.2% and 0.3-0.5% respectively). The remaining two studies demonstrated increased seizure frequency and/or seizure-related hospitalization in recreational cannabis users and those with cannabis use disorder. CONCLUSIONS: This scoping review demonstrates that a body of literature describing seizures in the setting of cannabis exposure exists, but it has several limitations. Ten identified studies showed a higher than expected incidence of seizures in populations exposed to cannabis products. Based on the Bradford Hill criteria, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be the causative xenobiotic for this phenomenon.