Epileptic Disorders


Long-term effects of cannabinoids on development/behaviour Volume 22, supplément 1, January 2020

Paediatric Neurology, UZ Leuven, Member of the European Reference Network EpiCARE, Leuven, Belgium
* Correspondence: Professor Lieven Lagae Paediatric Neurology Department, UZ Leuven Herestraat 49, Leuven, B-3000, Belgium

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Cannabis-derived products such as cannabidiol are now increasingly prescribed for different refractory childhood epilepsy syndromes. This raises the question about cognitive and behavioural safety of chronic use in young children. As there are no long-term data to answer this question, we can look for indirect evidence. In this short review, we focus on three lines of research: data obtained from the randomised controlled trials with cannabidiol, data on the consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure, and data on the effect of adolescent cannabis use. No hard conclusions can be drawn, mainly because of methodological problems (dosage of THC and other cannabis-derived products, duration of exposure, concordant addiction to other drugs, genetic factors, educational level, etc.), however, long-term data show a possible negative and lasting effect on cognitive and especially behavioural functions. Externalising behavioural problems and a decrease in IQ have been reported as a result of chronic cannabis use. Clearly, long-term studies using large childhood epilepsy cohorts are needed to confirm or refute these findings.