Cannabis for psychosis? New study says yes, sort of

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One of the most controversial concerns about cannabis is its impact on mental health. For decades, cannabis consumption was equated with psychosis. A rumored side effect of the herb’s intoxicating, psychoactive capabilities.

However, a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that a specific cannabis compound may actually treat psychosis, not cause mental strife. Here are the details:

A new study says cannabis compound treats psychosis

Psychosis is a broad term for the symptom of losing touch of reality. During psychosis, a person may experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

Psychosis doesn’t just happen to people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Substance abuse can also play a role, as well as previous trauma and neurodegenerative disorders.

Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with psychosis as well, demonstrating the complexity of the condition.

Now, a new study suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may prove to be a safe and effective medication for those with psychotic disorders.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has been associated with increased anxiety and paranoia in some people, CBD is non-intoxicating and is developing quite the reputation as an anxiolytic.

Unlike THC, CBD does not cause the intoxicating changes in cognition often associated with the cannabis “high.” Because of this, many scientists are interested in incorporating CBD into new medicines.

Scientists find CBD eases psychotic symptoms

Researchers at the King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience treated patients with CBD or a placebo for six weeks, testing to see whether or not their symptoms improved.

The study included 83 human participants, all of which were previously diagnosed with schizophrenia which included psychosis. The patients also continued with their previous antipsychotic medications during the course of the trial.

Prior to starting the CBD treatment, researchers evaluated the participants for their cognitive performance, functioning, overall symptoms, and reviewed their psychiatrists’ general observations.

These same variables were examined again after six weeks of treatment.

The results?

Patients given CBD had reduced psychotic symptoms, were more likely to be rated as improved by their psychiatrists, and had greater levels of cognitive functioning.

The authors of the new study are enthusiastic about the findings.

“Although it is still unclear exactly how CBD works,” explains Professor Philip McGuire, lead study author. “It acts in a different way to antipsychotic medication, and thus could represent a new class of treatment.

“Moreover,” he says,  “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.”

A history of success

The successful results of this small trial are not that surprising. Already, other small human trials have had similar results.

For example, a trial conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals back in 2015 found that CBD effectively reduced both positive and negative symptoms of the schizophrenia.

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include psychosis, while negative symptoms include apathy and lack of social interest. This trial also included 88 patients, though all patients had been diagnosed with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

With two successful small-scale human trials already, hopes are high for the creation of safer new antipsychotic medications in the near future.

Of course, it’s important to point out that CBD is already available to many patients in the form of cannabis oils and high-CBD cannabis strains.

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