Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in marijuana, has been found to be as effective for the treatment of Schizophrenia as antipsychotic medications. In addition, CBD was found to have far less negative side effects associated with it.
At the University of Cologne in Germany, researchers studied 39 people who had been hospitalized for a psychotic episode associated with schizophrenia.
Twenty patients were given CBD, which is thought to be the cause of the mellowing and anti-anxiety effects of marijuana. Researchers knew from previous research in animals and humans that CBD caused antipsychotic effects, while THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, could produce psychotic effects. The other 19 patients were given amisulpride, which is an antipsychotic medication.
The study was double blind– neither the patients nor the researchers knew which drug had been given to which patient. Patients were given the medication and observed for four weeks. At the end of the trial, researchers found that both groups responded equally positively to both drugs, and there did not seem to be a difference in impact between the amisulpride and the CBD.
During the study, negative side effects such as movement problems and weight gain were recorded in the patients who took the amisulpride. Patients who took CBD did not experience these negative effects. Antipsychotic medications are known to cause movement disorders which can sometimes be severe and permanently damaging. Newer antipsychotic medications are also known to have side effects such as loss of pleasure, weight gain, and increased diabetes risk.
Dr. John Krystal, chair of the Yale University School of Medicine responded to the findings, “These exciting findings should stimulate a great deal of research.” He continued to note that CBD not only had less side effects, but also worked better at addressing some of the more difficult to treat symptoms of schizophrenia.
Co-author of the study and professor of pharmacology at the University of California-Irvine, Daniel Piomelli, told the press, “Not only was CBD as effective as standard antipsychotics, but it was also essentially free of the typical side effects seen with antipsychotic drugs.”
While CBD has been shown to be just as effective as prescription pills with less negative side effects, there are certain measures in place that make CBD difficult to develop for wide-scale prescription purposes. The first reason is that CBD comes from marijuana, and marijuana is illegal on a federal level in the United States. In addition, extracting CBD from the plant can be expensive. Finally, since CBD is a natural compound, it cannot be patented like a new drug; the lack of a patent is a deterrent for Big Pharma companies, even though CBD medication would likely outsell their current antipsychotic medications.
Because of these roadblocks, Piomelli and his colleagues are hoping to be able to create a synthetic version of CBD to help treat patients with schizophrenia.