What is Epilepsy?

In Australia, around 250,000 people are currently diagnosed with epilepsy – that’s over 1 per cent of the population so chances are most people know someone with the condition.

Epilepsy is disease of the brain characterised by the tendency to have spontaneous, recurrent seizures. It is the fourth most common brain disorder after migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease.

How is it commonly treated?

The first choice of treatment is medication. Up to 70% of people become seizure free when taking medication. Other treatment options include surgery; Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) – a pacemaker-like device for the brain; Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) – where electrodes are implanted in the brain; and the Ketogenic Diet. Education and positive lifestyle changes are also important.

Cannabinoids and Epilepsy

Epilepsy and Medical Cannabis

The majority of people living with epilepsy obtain some level of seizure control with the use of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). However, approximately a third of people with epilepsy will continue to experience seizures despite medication.

Research into medicinal cannabis for epilepsy is showing there can be a significant reduction in the severity and frequency of seizures for some people whose epilepsy does not respond to AEDs.

Factsheet: Medical Cannabis and Epilepsy

Epilepsy factsheet

Many people living with epilepsy are curious about medicinal cannabis and its use in treating epilepsy.

As there are no registered cannabis-based medicines currently listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for epilepsy, applications need to be made via the TGA Special Access Scheme. Before you embark on this journey, it may be worth doing a self-assessment to see if you would be considered a candidate, at this point in time, to seek a prescription for medicinal cannabis to treat your seizures.

To prescribe medicinal cannabis your doctor will need to apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). To complete the necessary TGA forms your doctor will need a thorough history of your seizures, general medical history and the antiepileptic medications you have tried.

To make the process easier and quicker for your doctor, Epilepsy Action Australia has developed a form for people with epilepsy to complete before your doctor’s appointment.

Epilepsy Patient History Form


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