Cannabidiol An Alternative To Anti-Psychotic Medication?

Cannabidiol - cannabis - schizophrenia
Image: BigStock

There is increasing evidence suggesting a compound in cannabis could be key to the development of alternative therapies for serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia.

While there are many drugs being used to treat schizophrenia, patients stopping treatment isn’t unusual and rapid cessation can have disastrous results. One of the more common reasons for patients to cease using anti-psychotics is side-effects; which can be quite severe.

An example of medications used is Clozapine; the side effects of which can be anything from bed-wetting to seizures to myocarditis; which can be fatal.

While cannabis has been linked to the development of psychosis or schizophrenia in adulthood in predisposed individuals and the amplification of psychotic symptoms; disregarding it as a potential therapy for psychotic disorders is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There are dozens of cannabinoid compounds in cannabis and perhaps some of these may trigger conditions such as schizophrenia; but others may help control it, such as the non-intoxicating cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD).

Marc Fakhoury from the Department of Neuroscience at Université de Montréal, Canada has carried out a review of animal studies and clinical trials investigating the antipsychotic potential of CBD. A list of his 100 references can be viewed here.

One of the papers mentioned is from 2012 and states laboratory rodents and human studies have demonstrated cannabidiol is able to prevent psychotic-like symptoms induced by high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound in marijuana.

“Additionally, CBD prevented human experimental psychosis and was effective in open case reports and clinical trials in patients with schizophrenia with a remarkable safety profile.”

It seems marijuana contains its own antidote for some of its effects; it’s just that it is in small quantities in plants specifically bred to create the high. However, the reverse can be achieved. In some industrial hemp varieties, the cannabidiol levels can be very high and the THC levels very low.

“Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, shows great promise for the treatment of psychosis, and is associated with fewer extrapyramidal side effects than conventional antipsychotic drugs,” states Fakhoury.