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In The Weeds Shelby Mathews has suffered with dravet syndrome since she was four months old. Studies show medicinal marijuana can positively effect those with her condition, but it is illegal in her home state of kentucky.

Shelby Mathews is a 13-year-old girl who lives in Morgantown, Kentucky with her mother, step-father, dogs, chickens, peacocks and a potbelly pig. She was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that children develop within the first year of life, when she was 4 months old. Most of the time, children experience developmental issues once the seizures begin, and they have to be on medications for their entire lives, according to the Dravet Foundation.

Shelby's mother, Kristin Wilcox is responsible for the majority of Shelby's care. Everyday, Wilcox helps Shelby with things like eating, getting dressed, and much more.
“She has been on every kind of anti-epileptic drug...She started taking valium at 4 months of age. Just nothing was working,” said Mathews’s mother, Kristin Wilcox.

In June 2018, a new medication called Epidiolex was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to specifically treat Dravet syndrome and another similar form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in children 2 years of age and older. Epidiolex is an antiepileptic drug derived from CBD found in marijuana. Epidiolex consists of at least 98% CBD and less than 0.15% THC with a dose of 10 milligrams per kilogram per day, according to a study published in July-August of 2018 by the National Institutes of Health. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive properties, so users do not experience the euphoric high that is often equated with marijuana use. Mathews began taking Epidiolex in February 2016.

Kristin Wilcox opens Shelby's monthly shipment of Epidiolex inside Shelbys sensory room in their home in Morgantown, KY. Shelby's sensory room is filled with calming noises and alternating lights to help her feel more comfortable.

“In addition to another important treatment option for Lennox-Gastaut patients, this first-ever approval of a drug specifically for Dravet patients will provide a significant and needed improvement in the therapeutic approach to caring for people with this condition,” said Billy Dunn, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation Research in a 2019 news release.

Epidiolex has greatly improved Shelby's quality of life. Taking the drug daily has helped to decrease her amount of seizures and enable her to do activities more freely.

However, Epidiolex has a lengthy list of side effects including, but not limited to: sleepiness, lethargy, loss of appetite, loss of sleep and diarrhea, along with the typical side effects of anti-epileptic medication like depression, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks, according to a report by the division for neurology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada. Furthermore, THC has the potential to be a better anticonvulsant treatment than CBD, according to a study conducted by the Division of Neurology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. This is because THC directly bonds to the CB1 receptors in a person’s brain, which spreads its effects throughout the central nervous system. CBD, on the other hand, goes through the bloodstream, and the body reacts to it much like any other metabolite.

The brain is filled with receptors for numerous different chemicals and substances, according to the same study. These receptors take the substance and disperse it to the entire body at a much faster rate than if one were to consume it.

Due to her developmental delays, Shelby has a hard time talking in complete sentences, and often uses hand gestures to display her emotions.

When asked about a preferred alternative treatment to Epidiolex, Wilcox said she would prefer a treatment with a higher amount of THC.

Shelby’s mother, Kristin Wilcox, helps Shelby pose for a portrait at their home in Morgantown, Kentucky. Wilcox says her daughter has been on 26 emergency helicopter flights from their home due to seizures. She hopes that in 2020 Kentucky legalizes medicinal marijuana so Shelby can receive better treatment for her disease.

Dravet syndrome is just one of many diseases where THC can be used as a treatment. The sedating and hunger-inducing qualities provide relief for other illnesses and side effects caused by traditional treatments.