A single dose of a supplement derived from cannabis reduces psychotic symptoms, despite psychosis being linked to the long-term use of the Class B drug, new research suggests.
When suspected psychosis patients are given a single 600mg oral dose of the compound cannabidiol (CBD), their symptoms become less severe, a UK study found today. Such symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, anxiety and insomnia.
CBD appears to work in opposition to the other cannabis component THC, which worsens psychosis symptoms and is what makes users ‘high’. CBD that is legally sold in the UK must contain very low levels of THC.
After taking CBD, MRI scans of suspected psychosis patients suggest the supplement helps to ‘readjust brain activity to normal levels’, according to the researchers.
Medical cannabis is available on prescription in the UK after it was approved by the Government last July.
Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in 30 US states, including California, Florida and Ohio. Nine states permit the drug for recreational use.
One 600mg dose of a compound derived from cannabis reduces psychotic symptoms (stock)
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THC AND CBD
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are both derived from the cannabis plant.¬†
Together, they are part of the cannabinoid group of compounds found in hashish, hash oil, and most strains of marijuana.¬†
THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric, ‘high’ feeling often associated with marijuana.
THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and brain and creates the sensations of euphoria and anxiety.¬†
CBD does not fit these receptors well, and actually decreases the effects of THC, and is not psychoactive.¬†
CBD is thought to help reduce anxiety and inflammation.¬†
How the research was carried out¬†
The researchers, from King’s College London, analysed 33 people in their early-to-mid 20s who were experiencing distressing psychotic symptoms but had not been diagnosed with psychosis.
These individuals were compared against 19 healthy people with an average age of 23.
A 600mg dose of CBD was given to 16 of the suspected psychosis patients, with the remaining 17 receiving a placebo.
This dose was chosen due to it previously being shown to be effective in psychosis.¬†
Three hours later, all of the participants were studied in an MRI scanner while performing a memory task that engages three regions of the brain known to be involved in psychosis.
The task involved the participants being shown pairs of words and answering if the words are linked. They were then asked to recall these words.¬†¬†
CBD works in opposition to the cannabis component THC, which worsens psychosis and is what makes users ‘high’. CBD that is legally sold in the UK must contain very low levels of THC
CBD could be an ‘ideal treatment’¬†
Perhaps unsurprisingly, results suggest that the brain activity of a suspected psychosis patient is abnormal compared to that of a healthy person.
Yet, after a single CBD dose, these patients’ brain activity becomes less severe than those who were given a placebo.¬†
The researchers believe their findings could pave the way for new psychosis treatments.
Study author Dr Sagnik Bhattacharyya said: ‘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 unravelling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional anti-psychotics.’
On the back of their findings, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers are launching a large trial to investigate whether CBD could treat people at risk of developing psychosis, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder patients.
Dr Bhattacharyya added: ‘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.’¬†