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CBD dampens activity in brain regions associated with psychosis, study shows

Published on 30/08/18 at 10:54am

Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the major constituents of cannabis, may be beneficial for patients with psychotic disorders due to its ability to modulate activity in brain regions associated with psychosis, a study published in the journal JAMA: Psychiatry has shown.

While there is strong evidence that CBD can be beneficial in treating patient with psychosis, the exact mechanism through which these antipsychotic effects are achieved remains unclear. However the study, led by Sagnik Bhattacharyya of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, found that CBD was able to normalise dysfunction in the brain regions associated with psychosis.

The study suggested that CBD’s beneficial properties may be due to its abilities to dampen activity in the striatum, medial temporal cortex, and midbrain, all of which are associated with psychosis. Significantly, the drug may also be preferable to current antipsychotics which do not work for everyone and can induce serious side effects.

As explained by Bhattacharyya “One of the reasons CBD is exciting is because it is very well tolerated compared to the other anti-psychotics we have available. There is an urgent need for a safe treatment for young people at risk of psychosis.”

Notably regular cannabis use has been implicated as a risk factor for the development of psychosis. Furthermore, psychosis is associated with alterations in the endocannabinoid system.  However CBD has shown to have broadly opposite effects, while CBD has shown to have antipsychotic effects in patients with mental disorders. CBD has also shown to be non-inferior to antipsychotic medications in a four week clinical trial in first episode psychosis.   

The King’s College team are now launching clinical trials in an effort to determine the ways in which CBD could be used as an alternative to the antipsychotics currently available.

“If successful, this trial will provide definitive proof of cannabidiol’s role as an antipsychotic treatment and pave the way for use in the clinic,” Dr Bhattacharyya said. “Our results have started unravelling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional anti-psychotics.

Louis Goss

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