The daily administration of a constituent of cannabis known as cannabidiol mitigates psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia, according to King’s College London clinical trial data
The main psychoactive compound in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for many of the drug’s harmful effects, such as paranoia, anxiety and a possible rise in psychosis. However, research from King’s College London has shown that its second major constituent, cannabidiol (CBD), has broadly opposite effects to THC, suggesting that it might be useful as a treatment in mental health.
British researchers assessed the adjunctive use of CBD compared to placebo over a six-week period in a randomized trial of 88 schizophrenic patients. Before and after treatment, researchers assessed how bad their symptoms were. A psychiatrist evaluated their overall mental state. The study showed that patients treated with CBD had lower levels of psychotic symptoms than those who received a placebo. They were also more likely to have been rated as ‘improved’ by their psychiatrist.
The study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry says CBD may be used as an adjunctive therapy in schizophrenia, as it can ease symptoms of psychosis – such as hallucinations and hearing voices. “There was a reduction in symptoms in the patients treated with CBD, and the clinicians looking after them thought that they had got better. The rate of possible side effects in patients given CBD was no more than in patients who were given the placebo”, authors say.
While it is still unclear exactly how CBD works, we know that it acts in a different way to antipsychotic medication, so it could represent a new class of treatment. CBD treatments can indeed offer additional benefits over and above conventional treatment. Antipsychotic drugs have existed for more than 60 years, but they have limited effectiveness and can have serious side-effects.
Psychosis is a mental health diagnosis characterised by hallucinated voices or visions, or delusions where patients have strong and unfounded beliefs, for example feeling there is a conspiracy to harm them. Such disorders affect two to three per cent of the population. They usually begin in early adulthood and the symptoms can be lifelong. Patients typically experience paranoia, hallucinations and a lack of motivation.
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