Individuals with schizophrenia need to be on medication for the rest of their lives in order to manage its symptoms which can be debilitating, disabling, and affect daily functioning. The symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, negative symptoms, disorganized or irrational motor behavior, and more. These can cause people to struggle with motivation, sleeping, work performance, and have issues with social situations.
When it gets bad, schizophrenia can even cause suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Antipsychotic medications are usually prescribed in order to taper its symptoms. However, these medications have a long list of side effects: dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, dizziness, sun sensitivity, menstrual problems, rashes, and more.
How CBD Helps
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to be a beneficial alternative treatment for people with schizophrenia.
This non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant has been shown in studies to effectively mitigate a number of symptoms. The very first study to be conducted analyzing the effect of CBD on schizophrenia occurred in 1995, involving a 19 year old girl who was given 1,500mg of CBD each day for 4 weeks. The researchers found that there was an improvement in her psychotic symptoms.
One of the latest studies in 2021 showed that CBD is beneficial in improving cognition. The study involved 42 patients with schizophrenia, and they were either treated with an antipsychotic medicine called amisulpride, or CBD. While both treatments improved cognition among the study’s participants, CBD of course had resulted in less side effects.
Additionally, there is some promising evidence that CBD, even just one dose, can already treat psychosis. A study from 2020 reveals that it’s helpful in addressing the memory problems that are linked to psychosis. It involved the use of fMRI scans to analyze the brain activity of 13 individuals who were diagnosed with psychosis and how they reacted to one dose of CBD or placebo, plus 16 controls while being asked to do a memory task.
The researchers discovered that activity patterns in the mediotemporal and prefrontal parts of the brain differed among those who took the placebo and compared them to those who didn’t have a psychosis diagnosis. But when those with psychosis were administered one dose of CBD, the activity in these brain areas were similar to the activity in the brains of people who don’t have psychosis, while doing the same tasks.
“Our study provides important insight into which areas of the brain CBD targets. It is the first time research has scanned the brains of people with a diagnosis of psychosis who have taken CBD and, although the sample is small, the results are compelling in that they demonstrate that CBD influences those very areas of the brain that have been shown to have unusual activity in people with psychosis,” says Sagnik Bhattacharyya, the study’s lead author.
“Now not only do we know that CBD works as an antipsychotic, we know it targets the areas of the brain that need to be targeted. This really gives us confidence, and it gives us scientific justification for large scale clinical trials,” Bhattacharyya told Inverse.
“This study provides important insight into the brain mechanisms behind the antipsychotic effects of CBD,” he says. “It gives confidence in the antipsychotic potential of CBD by demonstrating that it targets the function of brain regions implicated in psychosis and indicating that even a single dose may ameliorate some of the brain function alterations that may underlie psychosis.”
“The finding that psychotic symptoms may show a trend toward improvement in this group even after one dose of CBD is encouraging, however, requires a larger scale clinical trial to investigate if the effects would continue with longer term treatment,” Bhattacharyya adds.
“The results form an important part of the picture that scientific research is building on the effects of CBD and will help support the case for further clinical trials on the use of CBD in different stages of psychosis as well as other neuropsychiatric diseases such as Parkinson’s disease where a proportion of patients may also experience psychotic symptoms.”
What To Know If You Want to Use CBD to Treat Schizophrenia
While there are studies proving that CBD is beneficial for schizophrenia, it is never recommended first and foremost to skip your usual medications and use CBD without consulting your doctor. And when shopping around for CBD treatment, avoid buying online if you aren’t sure of the brand name; keep in mind that most studies tend to use pure CBD and higher doses of it.
In addition, CBD can also have undesirable interactions with antipsychotic medications, so it’s never recommended to combine them nor with other types of medications.
Last but not least, some CBD products may contain THC, which has been shown to worsen the effects of schizophrenia. It could be tempting to self-medicate, but this is something that you should never do when battling a serious condition like schizophrenia. Always ask for the guidance of your physician first.