Cannabis Extract Could Provide a Helpful Role for Psychosis

CBD could hold promise as a treatment for psychosis despite the drug being considered a cause. This key component of cannabis extract could provide a new type of treatment for mental health patients suffering from hallucinations and delusions. Firstly, CBD has a broadly opposite effect to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component in cannabis and the substance that causes paranoia and anxiety. Secondly, CBD is non-psychoactive, leaving little recreational benefit. A new clinical trial exploring the effects of cannabidiol (CBD), found that it could relieve symptoms in patients with psychosis.

What is Psychosis?

Cannabis extract could provide ‘new class of treatment’ for psychosis
Professor Philip McGuire. via Optimise 

Psychosis is a mental health diagnosis characterized by hallucinated voices or visions. Patients can experience delusions causing strong and unfounded beliefs, for example feeling there is a conspiracy to harm them.

Antipsychotic drugs have been used in treating it for 60 years, but they have limited effectiveness and can have serious side-effects. Professor Philip McGuire, from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience, was the lead author of the study. He said conventional drugs acted by blocking biological receptors for mood-altering chemical dopamine.  However, dopamine is not the only neurotransmitter whose function is altered in psychosis.

“We need new classes of treatment that target different neurotransmitter systems.”

Furthermore, this trial found that patients given a CBD treatment saw statistically significant improvements in their psychosis symptoms relative to a group given a placebo. The 88 patients, from the UK, Romania, and Poland, also saw significant improvements in their health and severity of their illness as measured by their therapists. Also, there were signs of better cognitive performance as well, but this was not statistically significant.

Six Week Trial

Cannabis extract could provide ‘new class of treatment’ for psychosis
Comparison of a schizophrenic brain and a normal brain. via NCBI

American Journal of Psychiatry published hopeful results for the three percent of the world’s population diagnosed with psychotic disorders. Many patients are reluctant to take antipsychotic drugs because of the nasty side effects.

In the study, 88 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were divided into two groups. One group was treated with 1,000 milligrams of CBD, and the control group received a placebo drug. During the six-week trial, all patients continued to take whatever antipsychotic medication they were already prescribed.

At the end of the trial, the researchers, led by Philip McGuire, Ph.D., found that patients in the CBD group were more likely to be rated as improved by their psychiatrists. In addition, they reported lower levels of positive psychotic symptoms to the researchers.

Cannabis Extract Results

Cannabis extract could provide ‘new class of treatment’ for psychosis
The American Journal of Psychiatry is the most widely read psychiatric journal in the world. via NNDC

The results are published in the American Journal of Psychiatry today. The paper says: “This is, to our knowledge, the first placebo-controlled trial of CBD in schizophrenia.”

“The data indicate that six weeks of treatment adjunctive to antipsychotic medication was associated with significant effects both on positive psychotic symptoms.”

Professor McGuire added that larger trials were now needed to confirm these findings in other patient groups. It is unclear exactly how CBD works. It acts in a different way to the antipsychotic medication and could offer a new option for treatment.

“Moreover, CBD was not associated with significant side effects. This is also potentially important, as patients may be reluctant to take antipsychotic medication because of concerns about side effects.”

However, while all the improvements were modest, the patients were still using their antipsychotic medication. This means CBD treatments can offer additional benefits over and above conventional treatment.