Medical Marijuana: Cannabis Extract CBD Used to Successfully Treat Psychosis

A single dose of cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical found in the cannabis plant, could help to ease symptoms of psychosis, according to a small study. 

CBD is a compound present in cannabis plants which is already used to treat rare childhood epilepsy. Unlike the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn’t make users feel high.

Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, as well as severe anxiety and depression can trigger psychosis. The condition can make a person feel as though they have lost touch with reality, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. They might also experience aural and visual hallucinations, struggle to speak coherently, and behave inappropriately. Doctors might prescribe such patients with antipsychotic drugs. 

The paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry is thought to be the first to show why cannabidiol might help those with psychotic symptoms.  


Cannabidiol could help treat brain abnormalities in patients who experience psychosis, according to research. Getty Images

Last year, the same researchers at King’s College London, U.K., conducted a trial which concluded cannabidiol could target psychosis. In their latest piece of research, the team investigated how this approach may work.  

Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya, reader of translational neuroscience and psychiatry at King’s College London and co-author, said in a statement: “The mainstay of current treatment for people with psychosis are drugs that were first discovered in the 1950s and unfortunately do not work for everyone. Our results have started unraveling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional antipsychotics.”

In their small study, the researchers enlisted 33 young people who were experiencing psychotic symptoms, but had not yet been diagnosed with the condition, as well as 19 healthy participants who acted as a control. Of the participants enduring psychosis, 16 were given cannabis oil, while the remainder were assigned a placebo.

Read more: FDA approves psychedelic magic mushrooms ingredient psilocybin for depression trial 

To document their brain, the participants were scanned with an MRI machine while they completed a memory task intended to use the parts of the brain associated with psychosis.

The results showed individuals dosed with cannabidiol had less severe abnormal brain activity than those assigned the placebo. That’s probably because cannabidiol switches brain activity to normal levels, the authors of the study believe.

But cannabis used outside of a controlled clinical environment doesn’t ease psychosis, the researchers warned. In fact, researchers at King’s College London previously found strong associations between THC and psychosis. CBD, however, seems to have the opposite effect. 

Next, researchers will oversee the first large-scale trial to test cannabidiol on young people at high risk of developing psychosis.

Bhattacharyya commented: “There is an urgent need for a safe treatment for young people at risk of psychosis. One of the main advantages of cannabidiol is that it is safe and seems to be very well tolerated, making it in some ways an ideal treatment. If successful, this trial will provide definitive proof of cannabidiol’s role as an antipsychotic treatment and pave the way for use in the clinic.”


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