With more than 20 million people worldwide suffering from schizophrenia, this serious mental illness needs to be addressed.
Individuals with schizophrenia must be treated with medication for the rest of their lives to manage the symptoms, which can be debilitating, disabling and affect daily functioning. Symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized or irrational motor behaviors, and more. These can cause problems with motivation, sleep, work performance and difficulties in social situations.
When schizophrenia worsens, it can even cause violent or suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Antipsychotic drugs are usually prescribed to relieve its symptoms. However, these medications have a long list of side effects: dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, dizziness, sun sensitivity, menstrual problems, rashes, and more.
What is the relationship between CBD and schizophrenia?
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to be a beneficial alternative treatment for people with schizophrenia.
In studies, this non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant has been shown to effectively relieve many symptoms. The very first study to analyze the effect of CBD on schizophrenia was conducted in 1995 and involved a 19-year-old girl who received 1,500 mg of CBD every day for 4 weeks. The researchers found that she experienced an improvement in her psychotic symptoms.
One of the most recent studies, from 2021, showed that CBD has a positive effect on improving cognitive function. The study involved 42 patients with schizophrenia who were treated with either an antipsychotic called Amisulpride or CBD. While both treatments improved the study participants’ cognitive abilities, CBD had no side effects.
In addition, there is promising evidence that CBD, even just one dose, can already treat psychosis. A 2020 study shows that it is useful in addressing the memory problems that are associated with psychosis. It involved using fMRI scans to analyse the brain activity of 13 people who had been diagnosed with psychosis and how they responded to a single dose of CBD or placebo, and 16 control people, while they were asked to perform a memory task.
The researchers found that patterns of activity in the medio-temporal and prefrontal regions of the brain differed between the placebo-takers and compared them with those who had not been diagnosed with psychosis. However, when people with psychosis were given a single dose of CBD, the activity in these brain regions during the same tasks was similar to that in the brains of people who did not suffer from psychosis.
“Our study provides important information about which areas of the brain are affected by CBD. This is the first time that research has scanned the brains of people diagnosed with psychosis who were taking CBD, and although the sample size is small, the results are compelling in that they show that CBD affects the very areas of the brain that have been shown to have unusual activity in people with psychosis,” says Sagnik Bhattacharyya, lead author of the study.
“Now we not only know that CBD works as an antipsychotic, but we also know that it targets the areas of the brain that need to be targeted. This really gives us confidence and scientific justification for large-scale clinical trials.”
“This study provides important insight into the brain mechanisms behind CBD’s antipsychotic effects. It adds credibility to CBD’s antipsychotic potential by showing that it targets the function of brain regions involved in psychosis, and suggests that even a single dose can alleviate some of the changes in brain function that may underlie psychosis,” he says.
“The finding that psychotic symptoms may show a trend toward improvement in this group even after a single dose of CBD is encouraging, but calls for a larger clinical trial to explore whether the effects would continue with longer-term treatment,” Bhattacharyya adds.
“The results form an important part of the picture that scientific research is building about the effects of CBD and will help support the rationale for further clinical trials looking at the use of CBD in various stages of psychosis as well as other neuropsychiatric diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, where some patients may also experience psychotic symptoms.”
What you should know if you want to use CBD to treat schizophrenia
Although there are studies that prove CBD is beneficial for schizophrenia, it is never recommended to skip your usual medication and take CBD without first consulting a doctor. And when purchasing CBD treatments, avoid buying online if you are unsure of the brand; keep in mind that most studies typically use pure CBD and higher doses of it.
In addition, CBD can also have adverse interactions with antipsychotic medications, so it’s never recommended to combine it with other types of medications either.
Last but not least, some CBD products may contain THC, which has been shown to worsen the effects of schizophrenia. It can be tempting to self-medicate, but this is something you should never do when you’re battling a serious illness like schizophrenia. Always check with your doctor first.
Published by Jan Veselý28/12/2021