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Cannabis compound may offer hope to schizophrenia sufferers

By on June 5, 2017 in Mental Health with 0 Comments

Cannabidiol (CBD) Molecular Structure

A promising trial has identified a possible new schizophrenia treatment, by testing the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on rats. The results of the study suggest CBD may have a beneficial effect on the cognitive impairment and social withdrawal commonly associated with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is believed to affect around 1.1% of the adult population globally. Many of those diagnosed suffer from debilitating symptoms including reduced social interaction and a numbing of emotions.

In recent years a significant body of research has accumulated, with much of it suggesting a link between cannabis use and the development of psychosis. While the exact nature of this relationship is yet to be elucidated, this new study, published in Nature, is the latest in a string of efforts to uncover the neuroprotective properties of cannabidiol (the non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis).

Research & Findings

Distressed man with hands on headThe researchers from the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute in NSW, Australia began investigating the therapeutic potential of CBD in the treatment of schizophrenia with a systematic review of related studies.

Until now little research has been done to assess the efficacy of CBD in schizophrenia patients. However, the evidence does demonstrate a capacity for CBD to improve cognition in impaired populations such as Alzheimer’s sufferers.

To begin the new trial, the team infected pregnant rats with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) to induce schizophrenia.

After that, the researchers administered 10 milligrams per kilogram of CBD for three weeks to the offspring.

They evaluated cognition and working memory in the rats using standardized tests, and also gauged sociability using interaction tests.

The outcome was startling: CBD restored recognition, working memory, and sociability to normal levels. The results are promising as they suggest a role for CBD in improving some of the most treatment-resistant symptoms found in schizophrenia patients.

The team also found that the administration of CBD did not lead to changes in body weight or food consumption in the rats. Antipsychotic medications, on the other hand, are known to cause weight gain in many patients when used as the first line of treatment for schizophrenia.

Analysis

The emergence of CBD as a novel treatment for schizophrenia is an ironic twist in a tale of mostly negative news regarding the risks of marijuana use and psychotic episodes. However, researchers urged against the use of cannabis in self-medicating schizophrenia as THC (the compound responsible for the ‘high’ offered by cannabis) may worsen symptoms.

There is significant scope for new and improved pharmaceutical treatments for schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications frequently prescribed to schizophrenia patients at present have limited effectiveness in treating the cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia. They are also known to bring about a large number of possible side effects.

The research team note, however, that human studies are needed to see if CBD has the same beneficial effect in targeted populations. They also intend to further their research on this topic by studying neurotransmitter signals in the brain.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tom Andrews BSc is the founder of MentalWellnessToday.com and serves as its editor-in-chief. He devotes his time to psychology and mental health research and also enjoys climbing, hiking, and team sports. Tom is a contributor to several other highly regarded health magazines and blogs.

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