Marihuana and Epilepsy: Activation of Symptoms by Delta-9-THC

  • Dennis M. Feeney
  • Maura Spiker
  • Gerald K. Weiss


“There is not a substance in the materia medica, there is scarcely a substance in the world, capable of passing through the gullet of man, that has not at one time or another enjoyed a reputation of being an anti-epileptic.” This 100-year-old conclusion of Seivking (quoted by Meinardi and Magnus, 1974: 666) puts the issue of purported anticonvulsant effects of marihuana into historical perspective. Considering the number of recent citations, marihuana is developing a reputation of being an anticonvulsant even to the degree that careful attention to details of existing evidence is sometimes lacking. For example, citing an early study by Davis and Ramsey (1949), the recent report on Marijuana and Health (1974: 135) states that “the THC-like compounds worked as well or better than these drugs [diphenylhydantoin and phenobarbital] in all children.” The Davis and Ramsey study is often cited as a demonstration of anticonvulsant effects in man but the report is very brief and without a detailed description of methods or results and is difficult to evaluate. Moreover, of the five patients studied one “had prompt exacerbation of seizures” (1949: 285) under one of the THC homologs. The early work of Lowe and Goodman (1947) on seizures induced in rats by electroconvulsive shock (ECS) or Metrazol injection has also been misquoted. Fried and McIntyre (1973) cite this study as showing that THC “was effective in attenuating Metrazol induced convulsions.” Actually Lowe and Goodman (1949: 352) report that marihuana constituents and its synthetic homologs “were found ineffective and exhibited a marked lethal synergism with Metrazol,” a result confirmed by Sofia, Solomon, and Barry (1971).


Sleep Spindle Myoclonic Jerk Seizure Duration Mesencephalic Reticular Formation Hippocampal Seizure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bielfelt, S.W., Redman, H.C., & McClellan, R.O. Sire-and sex-related differences in rates of epileptiform seizures in a purebred beagle dog colony. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 1971, 32, 2039–2048.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bogdanski, D.F., Weissback, H., & Undenfriend, S. Pharmacological studies with the serotonin precursor 5-hydroxtryptophan. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 1958, 122, 182–194.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Chesher, G.B., & Jackson, D.M. Anticonvulsant effects of cannabinoids in mice: Drug interactions within cannabinoids and cannabinoid interactions with phenytoin. Psvchopharmacoloqia (Ber.), 1974, 37, 255–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Consroe, P.F., & Man, D.P. Effects of delta-8 and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on experimentally induced seizures. Life Sciences, 1973, 13, 429–4390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Davis, J.P., & Ramsey, H.H. Antiepileptic action of marijuana-active substances. Federation Proceedings, 1949, 8, 284–285.Google Scholar
  6. Dewey, W.L., Jenkins, J., O’Rourke, T., & Harris, L.S. The effects of chronic administration of trans-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on behavior and the cardiovascular system of dogs. Archives international es de Pharmacodynamie et de Therapie, 1972, 198, 118–131.Google Scholar
  7. Drew, W.G., & Miller, L.L. Cannabis: Neural mechanisms and behavior — a theoretical review. Pharmacology, 1974, 11, 3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Feeney, D.M. Evoked responses and background unit activity during appetitive conditioning in dogs. Physiology & Behavior, 1971, 6, 9–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Feeney, D.M., & Gullotta, F.P. Suppression of seizure discharge and sleep spindles by lesions of the rostral thalamus. Brain Research, 1972, 45, 254–259.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feeney, D.M., Wagner, H.R., McNamara, C., & Weiss, G.K. Effects of tetrahydrocannabinol on hippocampal evoked afterdischarges in cats. Experimental Neurology, 1973, 41, 357–365.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fried, P.A., & McIntyre, D.C. Electrical and behavioral attenuation of the anti-convulsant properties of delta-9-THC following chronic administration. Psychopharmacologia, 1973, 31, 215–227.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fujimoto, J.M. Modification of the effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol by phenobarbital pretreatment in mice. Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology, 1972, 23, 623–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gastaut, H., & Fischer-Williams, M. The physiopathology of epileptic seizures. In J. Field, H. W. Magoun, & V. E. Hall (Eds.) Handbook of Physiology, Neurophysiology. Washington, D.C.: 1959, 1, 329–364.Google Scholar
  14. Heuser, G., Ling, G.M., & Buchwald, N.A. Sedation or seizures as dose-dependent effects of steroids. Archives of Neurology, 1965, 13, 195–203.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Ishikawa, T.S., Yoshihisa, S., Katsuta, S., Ishiyama, S., & Tatsue, K. Hippocampal after discharge and the mode of action in psychotropic drugs. (Collected writings) In T. Tokizans & J. P. Shadi (Eds.) Correlative Neuroscience. Amsterdam: Elsevier Pub. Co., 1966, 577–602.Google Scholar
  16. Izquierdo, I., & Nasello, A.G. Effects of cannabidiol and of diphenylhydantoin on the hippocampus and on learning. Psychopharmacologia (Berl.), 1973, 31, 167–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Izquierdo, I., Orsinger, O.A., & Berardi, A. C. Effect of cannabidiol and of other cannabis sativa compounds on hippocampal seizure discharges. Psychopharmacologia (Berl.), 1973, 28, 95–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Janz, D. Epilepsy and the sleep-waking cycle. In O. Magnus & A. M. Lorentz De Haas (Eds.) Handbook of Clinical Neurology, vol. 15, The Epilepsies. New York: American Elsevier Pub. Co., 1974, 457–490.Google Scholar
  19. Joel, E. Beitrage zur pharmakologie der Korperstellung und der Labrinthreflexe. XIII: Haschisch. Pfluqers Archives, 1925, 209, 526–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karler, R., Cely, W., & Turkanis, S.A. The anticonvulsant activity of cannabidiol and cannabinol. Life Sciences, 1973, 13, 1527–1531.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Killam, K.F., & Killam, E.K. The action of tetrahydrocannabinol on EEG and photoclonic seizures in the baboon. Fifth International Congress on Pharmacology, 1972, 124. (Abstract)Google Scholar
  22. Kolodny, R.C., Masters, W.H., Kolodner, R.M., & Toro, G. Depression of plasma testosterone levels after chronic intensive marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine, 1974, 290, 872–874.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewis, P.R., Shute, G.C., & Silver, A. Confirmation from choline acetylase analysis of a massive cholinergic innervation to the rat hippocampus. Journal of Physiology, 1956, 191, 215–224.Google Scholar
  24. Loewe, S. & Goodman, L.S. Anticonvulsant action of marijuana-active substances. Federation Proceedings, 1947, 6, 352.Google Scholar
  25. Marijuana and Health, Fourth Annual Report to Congress from the Secretary of Health, Education and Weifare. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1974.Google Scholar
  26. Martinez, J.L., Stadnicke, S.W., & Schaeppi, U.N. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol: effects on EEG and behavior of rhesus monkeys. Life Sciences, 1972, 11, 643–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mayr, R., & Lechner, H. Zur Frage der Provokation bei temporallappenepilepsie im EEG. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, 1954, 66, 903–906.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Meinardi, H., & Magnus, O. Drug therapy. In O. Magnus & A. M. Lorentz De Haas (Eds.) Handbook of Clinical Neurology, vol. 15, The Epilepsies. New York: American Elsevier Pub. Co., 1974, 664–672.Google Scholar
  29. McCaughran, J.A., Corcoran, M.E., & Wada, J.A. Anticonvulsant activity of delta-8-and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior, 1974, 2, 227–2330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meldrum, B.S., Fariello, R.G., Puil, E.A., Derouaux, M., & Naquet, R. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and epilepsy in the photosensitive baboon, Papio Papio Epilepsia, 1974, 15, 255–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Musella, L., Wilder, B.J., & Schmidt, R.P. Electroencephalographic activation with intravenous methohexital in psychomotor epilepsy. Neurology (Minneapolis), 1971, 21, 594–602.Google Scholar
  32. Pompeiano, O. Sleep mechanisms. In H. H. Jasper, A. A. Ward, & A. Pope (Eds.) Basic Mechanisms in the Epilepsies. Boston: Little Brown, 1969, 453–473.Google Scholar
  33. Redman, H.C., Wilson, G.L., & Hogan, J.E. Effect of chloropromazine combined with intermittent lignt stimulation on the electroencephalogram and clinical response of the beagle dog. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 1973, 34, 929–936.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Redman, H.C., Hogan, J.E., & Wilson, G.L. Effect of intermittent light stimulation singly and combined with pentylenetetrazol on the electroencephalogram and clinical response of the beagle dog. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 1972, 33, 677–685.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Rinaldi, F., & Himwich, W.E. Site of action of anti-Parkinson drugs. Confines of Neurology, 1955, 15, 209–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schlichther, W., Bristow, M.E., Schultz, S., & Henderson, A.L. Seizures occurring during intensive chloropromazine therapy. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1956, 74, 364–366.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Sofia, R.D., Solomon, T.A., & Barry, H., III. The anticonvulsant activity of delta-1-tetrahydrocannabinol in mice. The Pharmacologist, 1971, 13, 246.Google Scholar
  38. Wagner, H.R., Feeney, D.M., Gullotta, F.P., & Cote, I.L. Suppression of cortical epileptiform activity by generalized and localized ECoG desynchronization. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1975, in press.Google Scholar
  39. Ward, A.A. The epileptic neuron: Chronic foci in animals and man. In H. H. Jasper, A. A. Ward, and A. Pope (Eds.) Basic Mechanisms of the Epilepsies. Boston: Little Brown, 1969, 453–473.Google Scholar
  40. Wiederholt, W.C. Electrophysiological analysis of epileptic beagles. Neurology, 1974, 24, 149–155.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis M. Feeney
    • 1
  • Maura Spiker
    • 1
  • Gerald K. Weiss
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Psychology and PhysiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

Personalised recommendations