MAY 02, 2021 8:20 AM PDT

Medical Cannabis for Epilepsy May Be Linked to Early Puberty

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Current research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) oil may be effective in managing seizures in childhood-onset epilepsy. Now though, doctors have reported early-onset puberty in a 2-year-old boy following the treatment. 

There is little consensus on how CBD affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HBG) axis, a trio of glands that regulate reproductive activity and the release of sex hormones. Some research has nevertheless found a link between cannabis use and higher levels of the male hormone, testosterone. 

Early puberty, formally known as precocious puberty, happens in boys when they hit puberty before the age of 9 and is attributed to premature activation of the HPG axis. Doctors thus suspected that CBD treatment may interfere with this system after diagnosing a 2-year-old boy who showed signs of hitting puberty including enlarged genitals and growth of body hair. 

Since the boy’s birth, his mother explained that he had over 20 seizures a day, becoming more and more frequent over time. He also had developmental delay, characterized by poor muscle tone and control, as well as impaired vision. As such, she decided to buy him CBD oil online, without a prescription, to ease his epilepsy. 

A month after treatment, however, she began to notice changes in her son suggestive of early-onset puberty. A further six months passed before he was formally diagnosed with the condition. Despite this, she reported that her son’s daily seizures had reduced to just five.

Tests found that the boy had abnormally high testosterone levels, as well as unusually elevated levels of other reproductive hormones. As such, he was treated with drugs to reduce the activity and effects of the hormones. 

The authors caution that this is just one case report and that there are no other cases of early puberty associated with cannabinoid use. They also say that while there seems to be some sort of link, they can not confirm whether the patient’s precocious puberty is a direct result of activation of the HPG axis by cannabis. 

That said, they cautioned that until more conclusive evidence is found, clinicians should be cautious of the hormonal side effects of cannabis-related products. This comes especially for children with brain abnormalities as they may be more susceptible to negative consequences than others. 

 

Sources: BMJBMJ Case Reports

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
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