According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is “a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves” that may cause a person to dissociate from reality with sometimes debilitating symptoms. Medical News Today explains that symptoms can include auditory or visual hallucinations, as well as “bizarre or paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking.”
For those affected by schizophrenia, the world may seem filled with fraught circumstances and major challenges due to the way their complex mental states perceive the environment around them. Schizophrenia has been divided into different subtypes in the past, although lately there is a move to recognize a schizophrenia spectrum in the same way as the autism spectrum is classified. Different aspects of schizophrenia which may or may not be present for any particular case, and which used to be part of these subtype classifications, are schizoaffective disorder, catatonia, childhood onset schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia or hebephrenia, and paranoid schizophrenia.
Some research has been conducted on the use of CBD to help treat schizophrenia. A study conducted in 2012 suggests that CBD was able to moderately prevent the endocannabinoid, anandamide, from degrading. When anandamide levels are elevated in cerebrospinal fluid, they correlate inversely to the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia, meaning the symptoms are lessened or in some cases absent. This study compared the treatment effectiveness of CBD against a currently used antipsychotic, amisulpride, and found that CBD was comparable in therapeutic benefits, but with a much better profile of side effects. Study co-author Professor of Pharmacology at UC-Irvine Daniele Piomelli stated that CBD was “as effective as standard antipsychotics, but it was also essentially free of the typical side effects seen with antipsychotic drugs.”
A 2017 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests patients with schizophrenia experience improvement after taking CBD. Compared to the group receiving placebo, the group receiving CBD had fewer psychotic symptoms and was more likely to be considered in some way to have improved. The effects of CBD seemed independent of dopamine receptor antagonism, meaning that this could potentially become a new class of treatment for schizophrenia entirely. Additionally, because CBD did not antagonize the dopamine receptors, it has been suggested that CBD could be added to an existing treatment regimen, which might include antipsychotics, in order to maximize the benefits against the disease. A 2014 study looked into the potential that a combination of CBD and a CB1 receptor neutral antagonist could both increase the benefits of traditional antipsychotics, as well as potentially provide benefits to counteract schizophrenia’s effects on metabolism, inflammation, and stress.
One of the most heartbreaking aspects of schizophrenia is its neurodegenerative properties. One of the leading causes of neurodegeneration is inflammation, and CBD has also been studied for its role in reducing inflammation of various types. In a review published by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 2012, researcher Andras Bilkei-Gorzo observes that applying CB1 receptor agonists resulted in increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is thought to be a contributing factor to CBD’s neuroprotective effects. This factor may also have positive implications regarding the application of CBD to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s Disease.
An August 2018 study investigating the use of CBD for schizophrenia suggests a possible role for CBD in the treatment of schizophrenia with a focus on reducing the root neuroinflammation and autoimmune origins of the condition.
While using CBD to combat neurodegenerative diseases like schizophrenia may be in the early stages of testing yet, it has the potential to offer a powerful new option in the fight against brain degeneration and resulting maladies.