SEP 11, 2018 09:00 AM PDT

CBD as a potential antipsychotic drug

Red/yellow areas show activity in the caudate, a brain area affected in people with psychosis. Credit: King's College London

With the legalization of the use of marijuana in medicine and FDA approving two cannabis-derived medications, more research is now conducted on other possible therapeutic applications of cannabis in different areas of medicine, one of which is mental disorders.

Although some earlier studies showed that the chronic use of marijuana could lead to psychiatric disorders in a condition known as cannabis-induced psychosis (CIP), a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry by researchers at King’s College London is showing the opposite.

In a study comprising of 33 individuals at high clinical risk of psychosis and 19 healthy control individuals, they concluded that administration of a single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) could help reduce psychotic symptoms.

These findings could lead to the rise of a new drug for psychosis in the future alternative to the currently used medications as Thorazine and Haldol which cause serious side effects.

“The mainstay of current treatment for people with psychosis are drugs that were first discovered in the 1950s and unfortunately do not work for everyone,” .said lead researcher Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya, a reader in translational neuroscience and psychiatry at the King’s College London and the study’s lead researcher “Our results have started unraveling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional antipsychotics.

16 participants received a single oral dose of 600 mg of CBD while the other 17 received a placebo. The control participants were not given any drug. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study all the participants while performing a verbal learning task that engages the three regions of the brain that is known to be involved in psychosis.

The results showed that participants who received CBD had less severe abnormal brain activity than those who received placebo, this is suggesting that CBD can help restore brain activity to normal levels.

Other previous research from King’s College London showed that cannabidiol works oppositely to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); which is the compound in cannabis that is found to be responsible for the high effect after smoking marijuana which is also linked to the development of psychosis.

“Although it is still unclear exactly how CBD works, it acts in a different way to antipsychotic medication, and thus could represent a new class of treatment,” said Philip McGuire, Ph.D., a King’s College London professor and lead author of the 2017 study.

“Moreover, 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,” he said.

Dr. Bhattacharyya and his colleagues are now working on the first large-scale, multi-center trial to test if cannabidiol could prevent young people from developing psychosis.

Source: Healthline, King's College London, JAMA Network

About the Author
  • A master student in Biochemistry and Molecular biology with experience in Education and Research. I am passionate about scientific research and passing my knowledge to others to help them learn about the latest in science by teaching, writing and volunteering in scientific events.
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