CBD, the many-sided and uber resourceful compound found in the cannabis plant, is said to relieve pain, anxiety and inflammation, improve mood, immune system and focus, and now, it is rumored to having the potential to counteract symptoms of psychosis.
Cannabidiol (the proper name for CBD) has been around for centuries and centuries, but has only recently been discovered for its natural healing power in the name of improving one’s overall health and wellbeing. It is continuing to gain attention as a potential (and powerful) treatment for serious conditions like cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and Crohn’s disease.
Now, a new brain imaging study has suggested that a single dose of CBD can reduce the symptoms of psychosis (which include delusions, hallucinations, or speaking incoherently) by “resetting” the activity in three main areas of the brain. This study has offered the very first evidence-based explanation for how CBD works in the brain to counteract psychosis, providing results that could generate new (and better) treatments for people suffering from the disease.
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by a disconnection from reality. It typically occurs as a result of a psychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia, or it can be caused from unknown health conditions, medications, drug use, and even lack of sleep, all of which can spark psychotic episodes.
Psychosis is not a single condition or disorder, per say, but instead is a symptom of other disorders combined, characterized by detachment from reality. Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren’t real are common symptoms. A person with psychosis is not usually aware of his or her behavior, and therefore may refuse treatment of any kind because they don’t believe anything is wrong with them.
A small study of 33 participants – all whom were currently experiencing psychotic symptoms – were joined with another small group of healthy participants, serving as the control group. Half of the psychosis group was given one 600mg oral dose of CBD, while the other half received an identical placebo capsule.
The control group didn’t receive any CBD. They didn’t receive any drug at all, actually.
All participants completed a memory task which was designed to engage three brain areas that have been previously linked to the onset of psychosis (the striatum, medial temporal cortex and midbrain).
Shortly after consuming CBD (and the placebo for those in the placebo group, along with the group that didn’t receive anything at all), everyone’s brains were examined with an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner, which measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.
To give you a clearer understanding of what the fMRI scanner does: The technique relies on the fact that cerebral blood flow and neuronal activation are coupled. So, when an area of the brain is in use, blood flow to that region also increases, which is shown through the scanner.
The scans from the study showed abnormal activity in the brains of the participants who were experiencing psychosis symptoms, compared with the healthy control group. This was obviously expected.
But, the brains of those who had taken a dose of CBD showed less severe abnormalities than the brains of those who had taken a placebo, suggesting CBD was “resetting” abnormal activity in those three key brain areas mentioned before, hinting that CBD could be an effective treatment for people with psychosis.
The Conclusion of the Study
The study’s lead author, Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College in London, commented on the results of the brain imaging study stating, “The results have started unravelling the brain mechanisms of a new drug (talking about CBD) that works in a completely different way to traditional antipsychotics.”
The next progression of the brain imaging study, which is already underway, is a large-scale human trial set to replicate the results of the initial study, to determine if CBD is a viable long-term treatment. If this is successful, according to Dr. Sagnik, CBD would then be “immediately differentiated” from other medications on the market, including some that have been around since the 1950s, all of which have produced inconsistent results for patients with psychosis.
In fact, some of the most common (traditional) antipsychotic medications have “notoriously severe side effects,” like muscle tremors and overpowering sedation.
Predictions of CBD as an Antipsychotic Medication
Dr. Bhattacharyya reported there is an urgent need for a safe treatment for young people at risk of psychosis, stating, “One of the main advantages of CBD is that it is safe and seems to be very well tolerated, making it in some ways an ideal treatment.”
He is optimistic about the treatment of CBD for people with psychosis, both from the results of the study, and because of the already evidenced benefits CBD has provided people with. He stated that, “If CBD turns out to be an effective antipsychotic, these findings (from the brain imaging study) will highlight another striking paradox of a plant that science is only now really beginning to understand.”