CBD for Psychosis and Schizophrenia: Recent Updates

It might sound kind of crude to say it, but psychosis might kind of be considered as the “peak” of mental disorders; on a level of severity, it far exceeds the likes of generalized depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. In short, psychosis (which includes schizophrenia) represents a complete detachment from the world of reality. It’s when individuals begin displaying highly erratic behavior, and can no longer distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

That being said, it seems unlikely that a natural therapy like cannabis – or any sort of medication, for that matter – might be effective in reversing the onset of the condition. However, studies that analyze the effects of marijuana for schizophrenia and psychosis have been going on for years, and now, scientists are starting to turn their attention specifically to CBD as a possible treatment.

In this article, we’ll go over a couple of these recent and relevant studies which show positive signs of CBD for psychosis being a potential treatment option. While we make it clear that cannabis is likely not a cure for the severe stages of psychosis or schizophrenia, it’s interesting to stay up to date and informed on how the herb can manipulate and even potentially reverse the neurological trends of the disorder.

What actually happens during psychosis?

We mentioned that psychosis and schizophrenia are mental disorders that represent a total detachment from reality, but what is it that actually causes this to happen? What takes place in the brain that drives an individual to become separated from the real world?

In short, scientists are not sure what exactly causes the onset of psychosis or schizophrenia. Regardless of what you may have heard in the past, they are unsure of why some people develop psychotic symptoms over the course of their life, and others do not. Unlike medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease, no one has been unable to pinpoint an exact physiological condition which accounts for the disorder.

However, it’s generally agreed upon that some combination of physical, genetic, and environmental influences account for the onset of the disorder.

In terms of genetics, for example, it has been proven that schizophrenia tends to run in families, so if you have a family member that has gone through psychotic episodes in the past, you may be more likely to develop the disorder at some point in your life. However, no one single gene has yet been traced to the disease onset.

Likewise, studies have shown that individuals with psychosis undergo changes in the physical structure of the brain. While subtle, it’s believed that these changes may result in some chemical depletion or malfunction which leads to a separation from reality.

Neurotransmitters are another likely “culprit” of onset psychosis and schizophrenia. These are chemicals in the brain that relay messages between cells, and it’s believed that irregularities in their activity (specifically dopamine and serotonin) are highly influential in developing symptoms.

In terms of environmental triggers, things like stress and drug abuse have also shown to be influential in the onset of the disorder, especially when combined with any of the aforementioned chemical/physical irregularities.

And lastly, with regard to prevalence, it’s likely that psychosis is more common than you might think. Recent estimations by the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), in fact, claim that nearly 3.5 million Americans – and roughly 75 million individuals worldwide – suffer from the disorder.

Additional statistics on psychosis and schizophrenia

Of the nearly 4 million victims who suffer from the disease, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of them will receive no treatment. This is due in large part to the extremely high expense of medications, as well as a lack of healthcare availability to a majority of sufferers. Likewise, though, this is also why cannabis (and specifically CBD) is becoming a popular treatment option – it’s available to everyone from a relatively manageable price.

Here are some other statistics involving the prevalence of psychosis across the U.S:

  • It is one of the leading causes of disability in America
  • Roughly 75% of victims develop the illness between the ages of 16 and 25
  • Its onset is at least partially genetic
  • In order to receive an official schizophrenia diagnosis, individuals must show consistent symptoms for a minimum of six months
  • According to research, roughly 1 out of 4 people with schizophrenia recover completely, while 2 out of 4 improve over a 10-year period and 1 out of 4 do not improve at all
  • Estimated annual economic costs of between $32.5 and $65 billion are attributed to the treatment of schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis
  • Between 33% and 50% of all homeless adults have some sort of psychosis

CBD for psychosis and schizophrenia: What new studies are saying

Before we get into the meat and bones of the article and start referencing the new CBD studies, it’s important to point out that the majority of CBD medication is administered with an oil tincture. While we won’t go into any detail here in this article on the differences between the various types of therapies, the vast majority of medical patients prefer this method because it involves no smoking, and it doesn’t produce a high.

In any regard, in one important study published last year (2017) in The American Journal of Psychiatry, it was disclosed that CBD may be a reliable treatment for schizophrenic victims suffering from hallucinations and delusions. The American Journal of Psychiatry is one of the leading sources for reliable news on psychiatric treatments, and this study was especially important as it was believed to be the first actual clinical trial of CBD for schizophrenia. There have been plenty of animal studies done in the past in regard to marijuana for psychosis, but due to regulations, it is rare for an actual clinical trial to be carried out.

In any regard, the study showed that the active cannabidiol (CBD) compound works to potentially limit the amount of dopamine that is blocked as a result of pharmaceutical drug treatment. (The CBD was administered in correspondence with other medications).

Of the 83 patients that were tested, all who were given CBD treatment experimented “dramatic improvements” in their symptoms, compared to the control group that was given placebo:

“The data indicate that six weeks of treatment adjunctive to antipsychotic medication was associated with significant effects both on positive psychotic symptoms and on the treating clinicians’ impressions of improvement and illness severity.”

Pretty astounding news, considering the fact that CBD had never before showcased in a clinical trial to alleviate the effects of psychosis and antipsychotic medications.

Additionally, a January 2017 publication from the Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews showed that CBD can in itself potentially act as an antipsychotic medication.

The study, which was carried out at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), proved that active cannabidiol compound can “influence learning, memory and attention, [and also offer] potential solutions to several core symptoms of schizophrenia that can be a challenge to alleviate with existing medicines…”

While it’s known that common antipsychotic medications are effective at treating symptoms of delusion and hallucinations, it’s generally regarded that they’re less effective at improving cognitive malfunctions, such as social withdrawal and “blunted emotional expression.”

As project leader Dr. Katrina Green claims, “From this review, we found that CBD will not improve learning and memory in healthy brains, but may improve aspects of learning and memory in illnesses associated with cognitive impairment (such as psychosis and schizophrenia).”

Last words on CBD for schizophrenia and psychosis

In conclusion, the most important thing to mention in regard to CBD for schizophrenia is that there is certainly no cure or “quick fix” for the disorder – until researchers are able to pinpoint the genes and molecular triggers of the condition, an actual cure will not exist.

That being said, it’s clear that CBD is an effective and reliable treatment option, at least to mollify onset symptoms and reduce the frequency of intermittent psychotic episodes. Hopefully, the therapy will offer some sort of a solution for the many millions of people across the globe who do not have access to treatment. While pharmaceutical medications and expensive antipsychotics are not an option for most victims, CBD represents a healthy, natural option for self-medication that’s easily available with or without an official medical marijuana card.

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