The medical cannabis industry is thriving in the US, with prices starting at just $10 a gram.
But some experts believe the high price tag and a lack of availability of high-quality products can be damaging to patients.
In a new study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers from Columbia University in New York, The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the University of Arizona looked at the use of high THC, a powerful psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
The study, led by Dr. Thomas Wrobel, professor of neurology at Columbia University, examined how THC-rich cannabis affects brain function in patients with epilepsy.
They compared a group of patients with mild to moderate epilepsy to a group with moderate epilepsy.
The researchers found that patients with moderate to severe epilepsy experienced significantly more side effects, including a greater frequency of seizures and more severe problems with memory and concentration.
The researchers also found that those with severe epilepsy had lower levels of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, which can make seizures worse.
“There’s no doubt that the cannabinoids are contributing to the severe effects of severe epilepsy,” said Dr. Wrobele, a neurologist and professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins Medical School.
“But it’s not clear why.”
The study found that the use for mild to severe seizures in patients who are seizure free increases the chance of developing seizures again.
The team found that moderate and severe epilepsy patients who were treated with THC had more of the chemical in their bodies than those who were not.
The use of THC for mild and severe seizures increased in patients whose epilepsy was less severe.
The study is the first to look at the link between THC use and seizures in epilepsy patients.
Dr. Giorgio Bonanni, the lead author of the study, said the study shows that THC is the most effective agent for reducing seizures in the treatment of moderate and/or severe epilepsy.
He added that while THC may be safe for the general population, the use and abuse of it in epilepsy could have serious consequences for patients and families.
Dr. Wrombel told ABC News that the lack of reliable, affordable medical cannabis products in the United States has contributed to the increase in seizures.
“The main reason for the rise in seizures is that the patients are suffering from chronic pain,” he said.
“And the price of medical cannabis is not going to help alleviate the pain.”
Dr. Bonanni said that many doctors are prescribing medical cannabis to treat epilepsy but the high cost of the medication is making it unaffordable for most patients.
“People who are in pain are more likely to abuse it,” he explained.
“So we have a significant market, but the costs are prohibitive for most people.”
Dr Wroles study found an association between THC-related side effects and a range of chronic pain disorders, including arthritis, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
The side effects included dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches and stiffness, depression and even seizures.
Dr Wrole said that people with more severe epilepsy could suffer more from side effects from THC than those with less severe epilepsy, and this is a major concern in the medical cannabis market.
Dr Wrombele said it was also important to note that there are also many other medications that can help with chronic pain and seizures, including opioids and steroids.
“Cannabis may be one of the first medications to have these beneficial effects,” he added.