A King’s College London clinical trial involving the cannabis compound CBD has shown it may be beneficial in treating psychosis in schizophrenia.
While cannabis can pose a risk to people with schizophrenia, this is thought to be primarily due to the effects tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component that can induce paranoia, anxiety and trigger psychosis. However, another cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD), which can also be extracted from industrial hemp, appears to have opposite effects.
In a King’s College London trial examining the safety and effectiveness of CBD in patients with schizophrenia., 88 patients with psychosis were administered either CBD or a placebo for six weeks in addition to any existing antipsychotic medication.
Results indicate patients treated with CBD experienced a lower level of psychotic symptoms than the placebo group and these patients were more likely to have been considered “improved” by their psychiatrist.
Additionally, there was indication of improvement in cognitive performance and general function – and all this without any significant side effects. The lack of side effects was an important finding as some patients are resistant to taking conventional medication due to side effects that can be severe.
The researchers state the positive effects of CBD don’t appear to be dependent on dopamine receptor antagonism and may represent a new class of treatment for schizophrenia.
The new research, which was the first placebo controlled trial of cannabidiol in patients suffering psychosis, was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
“The next steps are to carry out larger trials of CBD to confirm these initial promising findings, and to assess the effectiveness of CBD in other types of patient,” said Professor Philip McGuire, lead author of the study.
Professor McGuire’s team has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to conduct a UK-wide trial of cannabidiol in people at high risk of developing psychosis.
Previous research has also indicated the potential for cannabidiol in treating psychosis, and earlier this year we reported on Australian research suggesting cannabidiol could help alleviate cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia.
In June, neuroscientists at Indiana University also found cannabidiol (CBD) could provide protection against some of the potential negative effects of THC.