Although the antipsychotic properties of CBD have been well known for quite some time, a new study done by researchers at King’s College London is unique in that it uses brain imaging technology to reveal more about how this particular cannabinoid operates in the brains of people at high risk of psychosis.
The study used brain imaging to look at the effects of a single dose of CBD oil on the brains of 16 of 33 high-risk patients compared to 17 who received placebos during the trial. 19 participants considered healthy in terms of mental health were also included in this experiment as a control group.
Three areas of the brain showed a significant positive effect among the patients in the dosed group: medial temporal cortex, striatum, and midbrain. Abnormal activity in these regions that have been associated with psychotic activity showed a significant reduction in this abnormal activity.
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is not in and of itself a mental health diagnosis. Rather, it is a symptom characterized by a break from reality that can be associated with a broad spectrum of medical conditions including schizophrenia, PTSD, dementia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and sleep disorders among others.
In fact, as many as 100,000 people in the U.S. experience their first episode of psychosis annually, according to the National Institute for Mental Health.
Symptoms of psychosis are wide and vary from person to person, making it hard to pin down. They might include:
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Delusions about themselves or others
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of motivation
- Disorganized speech
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts and/or actions
Psychosis is a very serious symptom that requires immediate treatment by medical health professionals that can diagnose and properly treat whatever underlying disorder is causing this symptom. It should never be self-diagnosed or treated by people that lack mental health expertise.
CBD – Better Safety Profile than Traditional Treatments for Psychosis?
One of the most exciting aspects of this study for patients suffering from psychosis is that CBD may have a much better safety profile than the traditional medications used to treat psychosis. Although this includes a wide range of pharmaceuticals, some of which have been used for centuries (for example, Lithium), most have significant side effects that can hamper quality of life, including:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Significant weight gain
- Feelings of restlessness
- Extreme drowsiness
- Low blood pressure and low white blood cell counts
- Dry mouth
- Vision problems
In fact, despite the significant health risks to stopping their antipsychotic medication, many people who have psychosis will try to go off of their medication because of the significant negative side effects that can be associated with these psychotropic drugs.
Given that this presents a major mental health concern, finding medications that can treat the symptoms of psychotic episodes without having long-term adverse health consequences and debilitating side effects is a critical area for future medical research.
CBD may well turn out to be a significant treatment option for psychotic patients offering fewer side effects and leading to more patient compliance with treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report that reviewed decades of research on CBD that has demonstrated that CBD is very safe, with few side effects, and almost no addictive potential.
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