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CBD found in marijuana may help people with schizophrenia avoid negative side effects of anti-psychotic medication and significantly decrease some of the psychotic symptoms directly.
With the move towards legalizing marijuana across the U.S. and the information coming out of countries where it already has been legalized, there is emerging evidence suggesting that Marijuana may serve as an effective treatment option for different medical conditions including glaucoma, anorexia, chronic pain syndrome, epilepsy and intractable vomiting among others.
It is well known that patients with schizophrenia are more likely to use cannabis. Some have suggested that this could be a way of self-treating adverse side effects that result from antipsychotics. Therefore, studies have attempted to examine the use of marijuana in people with this disorder (e.g. Sankaranarayanan, Wilding, Neill, & Castle, 2018).
Recent research suggests that a compound found in Marijuana may help treat schizophrenia. Cannabidiol (CBD), found in the Cannabis plant may have anti-psychotic properties. This compound is different from the main ingredient in marijuana, THC, which can produce psychotic reactions and increase the severity of schizophrenia symptoms.
The symptoms of schizophrenia include Positive, Negative and Cognitive Symptoms. Positive symptoms are excesses in behavior or perceptions such as hallucinations and delusions. Negative symptoms represent deficits of behavior or perceptions such apathy, lethargy and the lack of motivation.
Cognitive symptoms involve the inability to fully understand information or use it productively, which includes problems with decision making, sustaining attention and retaining information in memory so it can be accessed and used. Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are important because they are most closely related to the ability to function normally in everyday life.
Results indicated that both groups improved across all categories of symptoms and that the two groups did not differ on effect strength. The benefit of CBD was particularly evident in the absence of most side effects that frequently result from antipsychotic medication.
Anti-psychotic medications have long been known to cause serious side effects which sometimes are irreversible. These include movement disorders and reduced motivation and pleasure. The newest generation of anti-psychotic medication often leads to significant weight gain and an increased risk of developing diabetes. While not usually life-threatening these side effects frequently prove to be long major obstacles to treatment compliance.
In a study just published, researchers examined which patients with schizophrenia may benefit the most from CBD treatment. CBD, either as monotherapy or added to regular antipsychotic medication were evaluated. In both cases, results indicated symptom improvement in patients with schizophrenia, with the strongest effects found in the early stages of disorder (Batalla, Janssen, Gangadin, & Bossong, 2019).
Researchers have warned that simply smoking or otherwise ingesting marijuana will not decrease psychotic symptoms and may make them worse. This is in part due to the predominance of THC relative to CBD found in the whole plant. This means that psychotic symptoms may be worsened through use of the entire plant.