Does CBD help with schizophrenia, and if so, how?
Schizophrenia involves problems with thinking (cognition), behavior, and emotions.
While signs and symptoms may vary, they involve delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech, and they reflect an impaired ability to function (1).
Researchers find that a combination of genetics, brain chemistry, and the environment contributes to the development of the disorder.
Because the causes of schizophrenia remain unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease.
Treatments include antipsychotics, psychosocial treatments, and coordinated specialty care (CSC) (2).
When left undiagnosed or untreated, schizophrenia can result in severe problems that may affect every aspect of life.
Schizophrenia may cause or be associated with complications, such as: (3).
- Suicide, suicide attempts, or thoughts of suicide
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
CBD and Schizophrenia: What Research Says
The first case report on the use of CBD as an antipsychotic medication was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 1995 (4).
The study showed that the daily administration of CBD for four weeks to a patient with schizophrenia resulted in the improvement of acute psychotic symptoms.
A later study on the antipsychotic effects of CBD on six individuals who had Parkinson’s disease showed improvement of psychotic symptoms (5).
More recently, researchers used CBD as an adjunctive medication in the treatment of acute psychosis in individuals who had schizophrenia or other non-affective psychotic disorders (6).
The CBD group showed a more significant improvement of positive psychotic symptoms throughout the treatment, as compared with the placebo group.
Individuals who received CBD also showed improvement in their cognitive functioning and a significant improvement in their motor speed.
Why Some People Are Turning to CBD for Schizophrenia
A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of CBD was published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design in 2012 (7).
Researchers found CBD had a profile similar to that of other antipsychotic drugs. Thus, CBD was considered as a treatment for schizophrenia.
However, the most significant evidence for CBD’s antipsychotic ability is through blocking THC-induced psychosis.
THC, or delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main mind-altering ingredient found in the cannabis plant.
On its own, the effects of CBD on schizophrenia symptoms have been mixed.
In one study published by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, CBD did not improve psychotic symptoms in individuals who did not respond well to traditional antipsychotic treatment (8).
A more extensive study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2018, however, found that CBD was useful in reducing psychotic symptoms (9).
Still, CBD showed promise in helping improve difficult-to-treat adverse symptoms and cognitive impairment linked to schizophrenia.
In animal studies published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2017, researchers found that CBD helped improve some of the schizophrenia symptoms, such as social interaction deficits and working memory deficits (10).
One of CBD’s outstanding benefits, should it prove to be an effective antipsychotic treatment, is that it is well-tolerated. CBD also has fewer side effects compared to traditional antipsychotics (11).
Another advantage of CBD is that it does not impact total body weight gain, food, or water intake (12).
Weight gain is a common adverse side effect of antipsychotic medications (13).
Still, more research is needed to get substantial evidence on CBD’s efficacy in people with schizophrenia.
Meanwhile, keep in mind the potential risks of THC, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis or marijuana that induces behavioral alterations similar to those observed with harmful abused drugs (14).
Full-spectrum CBD oil may still contain traces of THC. Always check product labels and ask for the certificate of analysis when buying any CBD product.
More importantly, before using CBD for schizophrenia as an adjunct therapy, or using CBD for a specific symptom associated with schizophrenia, consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use for advice.
- Mayo Clinic. (2020, Jan 7). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443.
- NIMH. (2016, Feb). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml.
- Mayo Clinic. op. cit.
- Zuardi AW, Morais SL, Guimaraes FS, Mechoulam R. Antipsychotic effect of cannabidiol. J Clin Psychiatry. 1995;56:485-486.
- Zuardi AW, Cripp JA, Hallak JE, et al. Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson disease. J Psychopharmacol. 2009;23:979-983.
- McGuire P, Robson P, Cubala WJ, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an adjunctive therapy in schizophrenia: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175;223-231.
- Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Hallak JE, et al. A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(32):5131–5140. doi:10.2174/138161212802884681.
- Zuardi AW, Hallak JE, Dursun SM, et al. Cannabidiol monotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. J Psychopharmacol. 2006;20(5):683–686. DOI:10.1177/0269881106060967.
- McGuire P, Robson P, Cubala WJ, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175(3):225–231. DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17030325.
- Osborne AL, Solowij N, Babic I, Huang XF, Weston-Green K. Improved Social Interaction, Recognition and Working Memory with Cannabidiol Treatment in a Prenatal Infection (poly I:C) Rat Model. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017;42(7):1447–1457. DOI:10.1038/npp.2017.40.
- McGuire P et al. op. cit.
- Osborne AL et al. op. cit.
- Stroup TS, Gray N. Management of common adverse effects of antipsychotic medications. World Psychiatry. 2018;17(3):341–356. DOI:10.1002/wps.20567.
- Rubino T, Viganò D, Massi P, Parolaro D. The psychoactive ingredient of marijuana induces behavioural sensitization. Eur J Neurosci. 2001;14(5):884–886. DOI:10.1046/j.0953-816x.2001.01709.x.
Mental Health Weekly News Wrap Up: July 29
By Lynn Brantley
Mental Health: Let’s Talk About Culture, Race And Ethnicity
As Minority Mental Health Month winds down, it is important to take a step back and remind ourselves that mental illness affects us all. Minority communities are less likely to receive mental health care than whites. Minorities have a long list of disparities when it comes to mental health care from racism to lack of cultural sensitivity. It’s time to educate people mental health without disregarding the different experiences minorities may encounter.
Being Transgender Is Not a Mental Disorder
In the past, studies have shown being transgender is a form of mental illness. But recent studies argue that being transgender is a condition related to sexual health. Many found their mental illness not from the transition itself, but from the social rejection and violence that comes with being transgender. The stigma associated with the transgender community needs to come to an end just as much as mental illness.
Date July 29, 2016
Author Lynn Brantley