Best CBD Oil For Schizophrenia

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Scientists are studying CBD oil for schizophrenia and dozens of other health conditions. Here’s what to know if you have schizophrenia and are thinking of trying CBD. Can you successfully use cannabis, particularly the non-intoxicating CBD, to treat schizophrenia? Does THC actually cause the condition? Prepare for several mind-blowing facts about CBD, cannabis, and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a neurological disorder affecting the perception of reality and cognition. We explore if CBD is safe and how it might help.

Does CBD Oil Help With Schizophrenia?

Many people say CBD helps them manage health issues like pain, anxiety, sleep trouble, and PTSD. CBD is short for cannabidiol, a natural compound in cannabis (also known as marijuana) and hemp plants. It has the same chemical makeup as cannabis but doesn’t cause a high.

In 2018, the FDA approved a form of CBD to treat seizures in children. Scientists are also studying CBD oil — the most concentrated form — for dozens of other health conditions, including schizophrenia.

What the Experts Say

Joseph Pierre, MD, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, says CBD’s potential role in schizophrenia treatment starts with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in cannabis that causes a high. THC can cause psychotic symptoms in some people, he says. And long-time cannabis users, especially those who start when they’re young, may be more likely to get a disorder like schizophrenia.

“Since CBD opposes some of the effects of THC in the brain, it makes sense it could be useful in treating psychotic disorders,” Pierre says. “There’s also some evidence that CBD has properties similar to antipsychotic drugs.”

But Pierre says people with schizophrenia shouldn’t try CBD on their own. The risks and benefits aren’t clear, and products sold without a prescription don’t always contain what they claim.

He also notes that the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products.

“We have many FDA-approved medications from plant sources,” Pierre says. “For example, the heart medication digoxin is derived from the foxglove plant. But if someone needs digoxin, I wouldn’t recommend they go pick some foxglove, bake it into a brownie, and eat it.”

Peter Bongiorno, ND, a naturopath and acupuncturist in New York, recommends CBD for some people as part of an approach that includes lifestyle changes, balanced hormones, and lower levels of inflammation. He urges those who take other medicines or who have mental health conditions to “work with someone who has experience with CBD.”

What to Know About CBD and Schizophrenia

If you have schizophrenia but antipsychotic medications don’t work for you or have serious side effects, you might be tempted to give CBD oil a try. But there are some important things to keep in mind.

Buyer beware

Because of its link to schizophrenia or psychotic episodes, THC is strictly off-limits if you have schizophrenia or if it runs in your family. So it’s crucial to know what you’re getting. That’s not easy, because the market is flooded with products. Many don’t contain what the label claims, and the terms may be confusing.

  • Full-spectrum CBD oil comes from the whole hemp plant. It contains all the compounds called cannabinoids, including traces of THC (0.3% or less). It’s a small amount, but you should still skip this one.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD oil doesn’t contain THC but has all the other cannabinoids. Bongiorno says they may help CBD work better.
  • Pure CBD oil means 100% CBD. “Pure CBD products are supposed to only have CBD, but unfortunately, even those sold in dispensaries sometimes contain THC or don’t contain any CBD at all,” Pierre says.
  • Hempseed oil is tricky. To avoid legal trouble, some manufacturers label CBD oil as hemp oil. Hempseed oil is made from hemp seeds and contains no CBD.

Do your research

Find out how the company grows, tests, and processes its CBD products.

  • Check the certificate of analysis, or COA. This shows that each batch is tested by an independent lab. It should say exactly what’s in the product and what isn’t, like toxic metals and pesticides. You can find the CoA online, by email, or with the product. If not, steer clear.
  • Ask about sources. The best CBD usually comes from organic plants grown on small farms in the U.S. and Canada.

How much to take

“If you’re going to use CBD for mental health, ask your practitioner for a high-quality version,” Bongiorno says. The amount you take can vary. “The studies tend to use pure CBD, which requires a higher dose. I use CBD with other cannabinoids at lower doses.”

Side effects

CBD is normally very safe but can have side effects in some people. The most common are dry mouth, feeling dizzy or irritable, anxiety, diarrhea, and nausea. There’s a chance of liver damage at very high doses.

Drug interactions

CBD can affect how your body handles other medicines. This means you may have higher or lower amounts in your blood than you should. Penn State University researchers found 60 drugs that interact with CBD or cannabis. Be extra careful if you take blood thinners, heart medicine, or drugs that weaken your immune system after transplant surgery. Pierre says that even some psychiatric medicines, including antipsychotics, could interact with CBD. You should ask your doctor if CBD is safe to use.

Show Sources

Gallup.com: “14% of Americans Say They Use CBD Products.”

Joseph Pierre, MD, acting chief of Community Care Systems at the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center and clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UCLA.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need to Know.”

Kendra Mark, founder 2Rise Naturals.

Peter Bongiorno, ND, naturopath and acupuncturist, InnerSource Natural Health and Acupuncture, New York City and Long Island.

Epidiolex.com: “Epidiolex: A treatment innovation.”

Journal of Clinical Medicine Research: “Dosage, Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Administration in Adults: A Systematic Review of Human Trials.”

Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology: “NTI Meds to be Closely Monitored when Co-administered with Cannabinoids.”

CBD for Schizophrenia: Can Hemp Oil Help with Schizoaffective Disorder?

Although cannabis has got a bad rap when it comes to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, the latest research findings indicate that the plant has been largely misunderstood. Studies suggest CBD may actually offset the development of schizophrenia and curb the episodes of psychosis. Better yet, it appears that the other major cannabinoid, THC, may not necessarily trigger the condition — at least not as a direct cause.

Today we’ll focus on the potential CBD treatment for schizophrenia. We’ll cover the recent studies on this subject, explain the mechanism of action, and debunk a few myths about cannabis and mental health.

Using CBD for Schizophrenia: Does It Make Sense?

Cannabis is a complex plant with 115 identified cannabinoids. Depending on the chemotype, cannabis strains may be THC-dominant and CBD-dominant.

Marijuana is known for significant amounts of THC, while hemp boasts higher concentrations of CBD and only traces of the intoxicating cannabinoid.

There are also terpenes, which influence the effect profile of each strain.

The majority of CBD oils available for sale are made from hemp, so their effects revolve around the benefits of CBD supported by other compounds in the plan. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests CBD may relieve anxiety, inflammation and pain, sleep disturbances, and balance mood.

The FDA has recently approved the first cannabis plant-derived medication, Epidiolex. It contains pure CBD and is recommended for treatment-resistant seizures. However, doctors may prescribe Epidiolex off-label for other conditions, such as schizophrenia.

What to Know About CBD and Schizophrenia?

There is a clear link between cannabis use and psychosis, as noted by epidemiological studies. However, a higher risk of schizophrenia has been associated with strains that have high THC content, and studies have notoriously mentioned a dose-response relationship for the risk of schizophrenia in cannabis users. This isn’t the case for high-CBD strains.

THC produces acute psychotic-like symptoms in healthy individuals after a certain dosage threshold is breached — but CBD decreases the THC-induced psychosis and cognitive impairment.

Patients with schizophrenia suffer from cognitive deficits — they affect up to 85% of the sufferers, so the potential positive effects of CBD on cognition have critical importance.

Below we shed more light on how CBD may help with schizophrenia.

Antipsychotic Properties of CBD

A case study published by Zuardi and colleagues found that CBD may successfully treat schizophrenia. The authors tested a dose of CBD up to 1500 mg daily for 4 weeks, which improved the acute psychotic symptoms (1).

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Findings from a 2006 study that analyzed the efficacy of CBD as monotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia in three individuals show that only one patient responded positively to the treatment, but the dosage might’ve been inadequate (2). A later study on the benefits of CBD for schizophrenia tested flexible doses up to 400 mg daily on 6 patients with Parkinson’s disease, finding improvement of psychotic symptoms in all participants over the course of 4 weeks.

Since then, CBD has been investigated for its antipsychotic properties in three clinical studies with contradictory results.

For example, a 2012 double-blind randomized controlled trial on the therapeutic effects of CBD showed that the cannabinoid was as effective as amisulpride, a common antipsychotic drug, in treating the symptoms of schizophrenia. On top of that, CBD had fewer side effects; it caused no weight gain and resulted in less extrapyramidal symptoms (4).

CBD was also tested as an adjunctive medication in the treatment of acute psychosis in people with schizophrenia and non-affective psychotic disorders. After 6 weeks of taking 1000 mg of CBD daily, the CBD group showed greater improvement of positive psychotic symptoms compared to the placebo group. At the end of their therapy, more patients in the CBD group were evaluated as “improved” on the CGI-I scale compared with the controls. Patients who took CBD also showed trend-level improvements in their cognitive performance and motor speed (5).

A similar 2018 study investigated the therapeutic effects of 600 mg CBD daily — divided into two doses — in comparison with placebo in a 6-week double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. However, the lower dose didn’t have a significant impact on the psychotic symptoms and cognitive performance of the participants compared to the placebo group (6).

How Does CBD Work for Schizophrenia?

Despite being supported by several epidemiological and clinical studies, the mechanism of action behind the antipsychotic properties of CBD remains unknown. Unlike other antipsychotics, CBD doesn’t directly affect dopaminergic neurons. It also doesn’t bind to cannabinoid receptors like THC.

However, CBD does indirectly increase the CSF levels of anandamide, one of the main endocannabinoids, by blocking its metabolizing enzyme, fatty acid amine hydrolase (FAAH). Interestingly, anandamide levels show a negative correlation with the severity of psychotic symptoms, whereas increased levels of anandamide have been found to improve them clinically after a CBD treatment.

This may hint to CBD as the potential mediator in the management of psychosis through the aforementioned boost of the endogenous levels of anandamide. However, further research is needed to confirm this theory.

Over the past few decades, medical researchers have been exploring the endocannabinoid system as the potential therapeutic target for mental disorders (7). The current pharmacological treatment for schizophrenia is only partially effective and doesn’t tackle the negative symptoms. This has led scientists to search for new pharmacological targets — and the findings from the ECS studies are very promising.

However, there’s a discrepancy in clinical results regarding CBD’s efficacy in treating schizophrenia and psychotic episodes. They could stem from different doses of CBD, stages of psychosis, and heterogeneity of the condition.

Risk and Side Effects: Can CBD Cause Psychosis?

There’s currently no evidence that CBD can cause psychosis. In order to do that, the cannabinoid would have to induce intoxication, elevating anxiety, and paranoia in the dose-response pattern. CBD has been repeatedly shown to reduce anxiety, help with the symptoms of PTSD, addiction, and improve people’s response to stress. CBD has a balancing effect on the nervous system, reducing the hyperactivity and increasing the hypoactivity of neurotransmitters when needed.

CBD is a safe substance. Studies have tested doses as high as 1,500 mg daily without dangerous side effects. That being said, there are a few mild reactions you may experience when you take too much CBD at a time:

  • Dizziness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

There’s also a risk of CBD-drug interactions, so make sure to consult your doctor prior to buying CBD oil if you want to avoid them.

The relationship between cannabis use and schizophrenia refers to how THC affects the brain.

But are you sure you have been taught the truth? Let’s take a brief look at the effects of THC on people predisposed to schizophrenia.

Does THC Cause Schizophrenia?

THC is an anti-inflammatory compound with antidepressant-like properties. In low and moderate doses, it also has a relaxing effect on top of inducing an altered state of mind, such as euphoric mood, giggles, and tranquility. However, doses of THC that score higher than your tolerance may aggravate anxiety and trigger bouts of paranoia, especially in those who are sensitive.

Studies conducted in the past have shown a correlation between cannabis use and a faster onset of schizophrenia in people with a family history of the condition. However, the conclusion might have been too hasty, as the latest research shows.

A study performed by Harvard University has analyzed all contributing factors besides cannabis use, pointing to the hereditary burden as the main trigger of schizophrenia in cannabis users. According to the research team, cannabis can only spur the onset of schizophrenia, but it’s not a trigger per se.

In other words, if a person is predestined to have schizophrenia, they will develop it sooner or later.

According to Dr. Musa Sami, a researcher and psychiatrist from King’s College in London increased cannabis use would need to positively correlate with the severity of psychosis, which hasn’t been proven by any study to this day.

Finally, Italian scientists from the University of Calgary have recently tested whether cannabis use will further harm the brain structure of rats that were prenatally exposed to an inflammatory agent that disrupts dopamine signaling and causes behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia. To their surprise, exposure to THC during adolescence seemed to protect the rats’ brains. The authors of the study hypothesized that THC’s anti-inflammatory effects were responsible for offsetting schizophrenia (8).

How Much CBD to Take for Schizophrenia?

The studies we’ve covered above have tested how pure CBD affects the mental health of the participants. However, most people use full-spectrum CBD products, where CBD is only one of over 400 compounds. These compounds influence the way CBD affects the body and brain, so doses may vary between people. Whole-plant extracts require a lower dose than CBD isolates, for which most studies have used a daily dose of 600 to 1,000 milligrams.

If you’re using a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil, it’s best to start with a low dose, say, 15 mg once or twice a day with food. If you don’t feel a difference in your symptoms after one week, increase by 10–15 mg and reassess the effects. Once you’ve found your optimal dosage, you can stick to it — there’s no risk of increasing your tolerance to CBD over time.

Do Your Research Before Buying CBD for Schizophrenia

The CBD market is regulated due to the current classification of hemp-derived products. As health supplements, CBD extracts aren’t subject to any standardization when it comes to quality and labeling. Although the market has positively evolved over the years, there are still many fly-by-night vendors churning out poor quality products with less CBD than advertised. Some of them may contain more than 0.3% THC; others may be contaminated with pesticides, solvent residue, and other impurities.

For this reason, you should always check how the company grows, tests, and processes its CBD products.

The best source of CBD is organically grown hemp. Hemp plants are dynamic bio accumulators, so they easily absorb everything from the environment they grow in. Organic farming ensures that you only get the good substances in the source material.

Another important factor on your checklist should be the extraction method. Premium-quality CBD oils are extracted using pressurized CO2; this method produces pure extracts with consistent potency throughout the batches. It doesn’t use additional heat or solvents, so you’re getting a product with a complete cannabinoid profile.

Last but not least, look for certificates of analysis or COA. This shows that each batch is tested by a third-party laboratory. Independent laboratories analyze the potency of the product and look for common contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, or solvent residue.

Summarizing the use of CBD for Schizophrenia

CBD can be used to manage schizophrenia thanks to its therapeutic effects on psychotic symptoms. It may also have a role in preventing or treating cannabis-induced psychosis in vulnerable individuals who consume high-THC strains.

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High CBD content may positively affect our mental health — not only by curbing psychosis but also by reducing anxiety and improving the body’s response to stress. Studies investigating the efficacy of CBD in mental disorders have found that the cannabinoid has a calming effect on the nervous system but without the dangerous side effects of commonly prescribed antipsychotic medications.

Clinical trials on CBD and schizophrenia have brought mixed results, most likely due to the discrepancy in dosages. If you’re considering taking CBD oil to improve the symptoms of your condition, make sure to consult a holistic psychiatrist who will have a good understanding of CBD and cannabis in general. Doing so will help you determine the effective dosage and avoid negative CBD-drug interactions.

Literature:

  1. Zuardi, A W et al. “Antipsychotic effect of cannabidiol.” The Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 56,10 (1995): 485-6.
  2. Zuardi, Antonio Waldo et al. “Cannabidiol monotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 20,5 (2006): 683-6. doi:10.1177/0269881106060967
  3. Zuardi, Antonio Waldo et al. Op. Cit.
  4. Leweke, F M et al. “Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia.” Translational psychiatry vol. 2,3 e94. 20 Mar. 2012, doi:10.1038/tp.2012.15
  5. McGuire, Philip et al. “Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American journal of psychiatry vol. 175,3 (2018): 225-231. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17030325
  6. Boggs, Douglas L et al. “The effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on cognition and symptoms in outpatients with chronic schizophrenia a randomized placebo-controlled trial.” Psychopharmacology vol. 235,7 (2018): 1923-1932. doi:10.1007/s00213-018-4885-9
  7. Leweke, F Markus et al. “Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Pathophysiology of Schizophrenia: Implications for Pharmacological Intervention.” CNS drugs vol. 32,7 (2018): 605-619. doi:10.1007/s40263-018-0539-z
  8. Lecca, Salvatore et al. “Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol During Adolescence Attenuates Disruption of Dopamine Function Induced in Rats by Maternal Immune Activation.” Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience vol. 13 202. 6 Sep. 2019, doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00202
Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

CBD Oil for Schizophrenia & Psychosis: Can It Help?

Schizophrenia is a neurological disorder affecting the perception of reality.

We explore if CBD is safe & how it might help.

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Schizophrenia causes disordered thoughts and speech, visual or auditory hallucinations, and a myriad of other symptoms that can vary from one person to the next.

Researchers are continuously looking for new, effective treatment options for schizophrenia, and in recent years have turned their focus toward CBD — a powerful, medicinal (non-psychoactive) compound contained in the cannabis plant.

In this article, we’ll discuss what we know so far about this debilitating mental health condition and how CBD can be used to support symptoms.

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Updated on November 13, 2021

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Can CBD Help With Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complex psychiatric disorder involving many different confounding factors working together to produce symptoms. Schizophrenia is a serious chronic, debilitating psychotic disorder listed in the top 15 leading causes of disability worldwide according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

This means that there is no single effective treatment for the disorder. Successful treatment, therefore, requires an all-encompassing approach. Everything from changes in diet and lifestyle to supplements and medications should be combined to manage the condition.

CBD has been shown to offer some unique benefits that may be combined with other treatments to maximize the management of schizophrenia.

While the mechanism of action for CBD remains unclear, the results so far have been promising.

The potential benefits of CBD oil for schizophrenia include:

  • Alleviates anxiety & depression
  • Regulates neurotransmitter balance (dopamine, serotonin, & glutamate)
  • Increased blood flow to cortical regions of the brain
  • Improves sleep quality & duration
  • Regulates the vanilloid receptors (TRPV1)

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a diagnosable psychotic disorder involving delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, difficulty staying focused, lack of motivation, and disorganized or catatonic behavior. Diagnosis by a physician requires at least a month or two or more symptoms over at least six months, with at least one positive symptom and social/occupational dysfunction.

Seeing a doctor early is important because schizophrenia must be carefully distinguished from other mood and psychotic disorders with similar symptoms, in order to optimize correct treatment and minimize long-term harm.

However, it’s a rare condition affecting ~1% of the US population, according to the American Psychiatric Association. They also note that approximately half of schizophrenia patients may also suffer from another mental or behavioral disorder.

There are a lot of misconceptions in public understanding of this condition. Despite popular belief, most schizophrenics aren’t dangerous. They don’t all live in hospitals nor have split personalities. Many, albeit not most people, who have the condition can live reasonably normal lives — they often have jobs and families and can live independently.

Schizophrenia affects both men and women equally, but symptoms tend to appear sooner in males than females. Men usually begin experiencing symptoms around their late-teens to mid 20s, while females typically start showing signs in their mid 20s or early 30s. It’s rarer for anybody under the age of 12, or over 40, to show symptoms of schizophrenia — but still possible.

Schizophrenia itself isn’t deadly, but it’s often associated with other medical conditions that can lead to problems later in life — such as heart disease or diabetes. Patients, in general, are at higher risk of premature death from such preventable causes, also including metabolic and liver disease, and suicide.

Three Phases of Schizophrenia

1. Prodromal Phase

This is the phase leading up to the first display of active psychotic symptoms, usually starting here with negative symptoms. “Negative” symptoms can be thought of as irregular social behaviors or speech/affect opposite of the norm (listed below). There is also some accompanying decline in daily functioning. If detected early enough, the onset and severity of schizophrenia can be significantly reduced and better managed in the long-term .

In the prodromal phase, patients often experience a decline in social and cognitive functions like memory, judgement, attention, depression, anxiety, isolation, and learning difficulties. Patients may also have mood symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts which should be taken seriously.

The prodromal phase can last anywhere from several weeks to several years [1].

2. Active Phase

During this phase, distinct positive symptoms become evident and perhaps more severe, involving delusions, hallucinations, and catatonic behavior. These “positive” symptoms may involve delusions, hallucinations, disorders of thought, and either agitation/aggression or catatonic behavior. This is when treatment is most important and when most schizophrenia diagnoses are made.

3. Residual Phase

In the residual phase, symptoms may begin to disappear, but patients are often left feeling “flat,” with poor motivation, low mood, and inability to focus or concentrate. Treatment during this phase is still important, directed toward controlling psychotic episodes and mood symptoms.

In the long run, about 30% will improve or return to normal function, another 30% will be hospitalized intermittently, and another 30% will be institutionalized or incapacitated. Unfortunately, ~10% of patients are lost to suicide.

Signs & Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into three main categories:

A) Positive (Psychotic) Symptoms
B) Negative Symptoms
C) Cognitive Symptoms

What Causes of Schizophrenia?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single identified cause of schizophrenia. Research has linked the disorder with some different potential causes, including environmental influences, genetics (i.e. chromosome 6), changes in brain chemistry, and physical or emotional trauma.

1. Dopamine Theory

One of the leading theories for the causes of schizophrenia comes from early behavioral studies that found if you increase dopaminergic activity in certain brain pathways then psychotic symptoms appear (as in overdoses of cocaine, amphetamine, L-dopa).

This mesocorticolimbic projection is now the primary target mechanism of antipsychotic drugs.

In fact, all anti-psychotic medications work by blocking dopamine (D2) receptors in the brain to some degree — suggesting that schizophrenia is caused by too much dopamine in certain brain pathways.

The trade-off is that either over-activating or blocking dopamine in certain brain areas may cause unpleasant side-effects, which can be addressed.

For example, blocking dopamine receptors in one area produces Parkinsonian-like effects and involuntary muscle spasms. Too little dopamine activity in the frontal cortex is thought to cause the negative and cognitive symptoms.

First generation anti-psychotics are effective at blocking psychotic symptoms, however, they often come with many other side effects. Second generation (or “atypical”) anti-psychotics are better at avoiding the side-effect pathways, and also block a greater number of serotonin receptors.

2. Brain Structure Abnormality Theory

Neuroimaging studies have shown that patients with differing symptoms have physiological abnormalities (such as reduced blood flow) in different areas of the brain.

For example, patientshave been shown to have abnormalities in the thalamus — the area of the brain tasked with filtering and processing sensory signals such as sight, sound, or touch. Other studies have found that patients show signs of reduced neurons, which may be related to the faulty, overactive C4 pruning gene researchers found on chromosome 6.

All of these different factors suggest that schizophrenia can be caused by dysfunctions in many different areas of the brain. Symptoms will be determined by the parts of the brain that are most affected.

Low doses of cannabis improve blood flow to regions of the brain involved with regulating mood, sociability, and cognition — potentially reducing psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia [10].

3. Glutamate Theory

Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain, and the one responsible for neural excitement. One theory regarding schizophrenia involves inappropriate glutamate activity and NMDA receptor expression alteration in the brain. This theory could be used to explain many of the symptoms associated with the condition. Additionally, the psychoactive drug phencyclidine (PCP) is known for producing acute, schizophrenia-like psychosis through activation of the glutamate receptors in the brain [8].

This has led some medical researchers to suggest schizophrenia involves similar over- or underactivation of glutamate in certain areas of the brain.

Studies show that synthetic cannabinoids reduce PCP-induced schizophrenic symptoms in rats [9].

4. Anandamide Excess Theory

Other research findings suggest schizophrenic patients have significantly higher levels of anandamide in their blood [4]. Follow up studies show high levels of anandamide present in the cerebrospinal fluid of actively psychotic, schizophrenic patients who have never been treated. Interestingly, researchers now pose that high anandamide may not be the cause, but is actually a homeostatic compensation to fight the disease state.

In a double-blind, randomized clinical trial, CBD was shown to improve psychotic symptoms by improving anandamide signalling. CBD was just as effective as the potent, second generation antipsychotic amisulpride at reducing symptoms — but had less unpleasant side effects.

CBD inhibits the enzyme FAAH from degrading anandamide, suggesting the endocannabinoid system is somehow altered in schizophrenia, but may now play a new role in treatment.

Similar studies report dysfunctional CB1 receptor activity in schizophrenic patients, especially in regions of the brain relating to cognition and memory — two functions highly compromised in schizophrenia [5, 6].

Patients with schizophrenia are more likely to be negatively affected by THC — which is a well-known CB1 receptor agonist [7].

This, of course, makes schizophrenia challenging to treat because there are so many different factors to take into account. It also explains why some patients respond to treatment, and others don’t.

5. Other Potential Causes
  • Severe or long-term stress
  • Substance abuse, particularly in adolescence
  • Genetic factors
  • Viral infection
  • Developmental problems
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Neurodegenerative disorders

Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

The most effective treatments for schizophrenia have an all-encompassing approach. Medications, lifestyle coaching, psychiatric care, and group therapy are all necessary aspects of treatment for this condition.

With early and proper treatment involving antipsychotic medications, most of the symptoms of schizophrenia can be reduced or eliminated, and episodes of active-phase schizophrenia become less frequent.

Unfortunately, all of these medications come with potentially negative side-effects, especially in the long term. Sudden, abnormal or painful muscle movements, diabetes, and heart complications are especially common in people taking these medications. There’s also a risk of CBD interacting with medications, so always talk to your doctor first.

However, side effects can be addressed with your doctor and managed if they appear. Families should seek support for their affected loved ones and themselves, with assistance like home care and ensuring patients can access and maintain treatment long-term.

Communities should provide opportunities for employment and assisted/independent living, giving patients a base from which to set and achieve goals.

Treatment for Schizophrenia May Include:
Medications Often Used For Schizophrenia:

What the Research Says: CBD Oil for Schizophrenia

Over the past decade, there’s been a growing interest in the use of CBD for treating schizophrenia.

This research started following a case report released in 1995 highlighting the improvement in a schizophrenic patient who was unresponsive to the standard antipsychotic medication haloperidol [3]. In 2012, the results of the clinical study highlighted above on CBD vs amulisopride and enhanced anandamide signalling was published.

Even more recently, the pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals Plc recently ran a series of clinical trials on a new CBD-based drug it’s been developing called Sativex®. One of these studies explored whether or not CBD was able to relieve symptoms of schizophrenia in patients who were unresponsive to standard antipsychotic medications [2].

The GW Pharmaceuticals study was a phase 2, double-blind clinical trial conducted across 15 different hospitals in the UK, Romania, and Poland. Patients in the study were randomly put into either a treatment group (using 1000 mg per day of CBD split into two doses) or a control group (using a placebo).

At the end of the six-week trial, the CBD group showed modest improvements in schizophrenic symptoms. The most substantial improvements from the study involved motor speed and executive functioning.

The most significant finding in this research was that CBD didn’t appear to rely on dopamine receptor modulation — which is the primary target for current schizophrenia treatments. Instead, researchers in this study suggested the mechanism of action to be through inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), inhibition of adenosine reuptake, vanilloid receptor activation (VR1), and serotonin (5HT1A) receptor activation [2].

They concluded by stating that: “Because CBD acts in a way different from conventional antipsychotic medication, it may represent a new class of treatment for schizophrenia.”

More clinical trials are scheduled to explore the use of CBD for schizophrenia in larger populations and longer duration of treatment.

Results of the GW Pharmaceuticals Research Study:

(Source: McGuire et al., 2017)

THC vs. CBD for Schizophrenia

High-THC and low-CBD extracts have been associated with a higher risk of psychotic episodes [11]. Other studies have shown that cannabis containing a high level of CBD and a level of low THC is associated with a lower risk of psychotic episodes [12].

Other studies have shown that CBD offered improvement in symptoms of schizophrenia to a similar degree as amisulpride — an antipsychotic medication [13]. CBD also had fewer side-effects.

The differences between CBD and THC and their effect on schizophrenia is very important — and likely to be the reason behind the conflicting evidence for cannabis users and schizophrenia. Some patients find relief from symptoms with cannabis use; others experience dramatically worsened symptoms after using cannabis.

It is not recommended, but if using cannabis for schizophrenia, make sure you pay attention to the THC content. Additionally, only choose products with low or “not detectable” THC concentrations when buying CBD.

Key Takeaways: Using CBD for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a highly complex neurological disorder that continues to puzzle medical researchers. However, there are several significant theories about the underlying causes of schizophrenia.

Some patients respond very well to medications; others do not.

Although CBD may improve the side-effects of the condition using several different models of schizophrenia (clinical and PCP-induced), there is also evidence that other cannabinoids — namely THC — can worsen schizophrenia.

For this reason, it’s recommended that you only use CBD for schizophrenia under the close watch of a medical professional. It’s also recommended that you only use CBD products that are entirely void of THC. Additionally, research suggests that a high dose (1000 mg per day) of CBD is needed to produce even modest improvements in symptoms.

Patients and families are encouraged to seek further support and resources from their doctor, and groups like NAMI and the American Psychiatric Association.

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