Medical Xpress looks into the latest findings by Renard et al. on the potential treatment development of CBD for psychosis.
Psychosis can be described as a state of mind where the person can’t distinguish what is real. Psychotic people do not behave the way most people do towards others. Some common signs are unclear or confused thinking and language, strange beliefs and hearing voices or other hallucinations.
Schizophrenia is a medical disorder of the mind in which patients experience psychosis. For a psychotic person to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, symptoms must prevail for six months.
Many licensed medications may cause the same symptoms as schizophrenia. Most common are antidepressants, ADHD medication and even anti-vomiting medication if taken for a time and then stopped. Literally hundreds of medicines have schizophrenia as a rare side effect. Therefore it is important to rule out these causes of psychosis.
Other possible causes of psychosis
Not having enough vitamin B12, magnesium, sodium, or other chemicals the body needs
- Sleep disorders
- A stroke or brain tumor
- A metabolism that is too fast or too slow
Since chlorpromazine was introduced in 1952, the treatment of schizophrenia has not changed. Six decades later antipsychotic strategy is still based on normalizing dopaminergic neurotransmission. This does not address the symptoms of a very complex disorder adequately. It also has severe side effects that can make the patients’ condition even worse.
Currently schizophrenia is seen as a syndrome and is diagnosed on the basis of symptom profiles. In this regard preclinical and clinical studies have shown the antipsychotic potential of CBD (cannabidiol), a compound of cannabis without the psychoactive properties (THC). CBD has shown effective reduction of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
“Positive symptoms” is a term that does not mean they are good, but are ‘added on’ experiences. In other words, the term describes any thought, behavior or experience of the senses not shared by others, such as delusion, hearing voices, seeing, smelling or tasting things that do not exist.
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The mechanism of the antipsychotic action of CBD is still not clear
The underlying mechanism of the antipsychotic action of CBD remains unclear. Recent studies by Renard et al. (2016) focus on the nucleus accumbens as a relevant ‘hot-spot’ for antipsychotic action, and this is the brain region targeted by CBD.
Cannabidiol normalizes positive symptom-like behaviors in amphetamine AMPH-sensitized rats. Rats pretreated with CBD were able to inhibit the development of positive symptom-like behaviors. These findings reinforced the possible potential of cannabidiol as an antipsychotic treatment.
The workings of CBD on neuro-molecular level hold great potential
Cannabidiol activates the mammalian target of the rapamycin (mTOR) signaling cascade. Neuro-molecular findings suggested that CBD bypasses certain receptors, which could explain the lack of side effects, associated with conventional medicines. These finding are most important pointers to the mTOR cascade being an attractive option in the development of a new antipsychotic medication.
Further analysis is needed to provide insight into the structural effects of CBD on neuronal and synaptic architecture. A lot is to be learned on how CBD dampens the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and how it increases synaptic levels of anandamide (AEA) and reduces dopaminergic tone, which could lead to the normalizing of psychosis.
A novel insight
The work of Renard et al. provided a novel insight into the mechanisms underlying the workings of antipsychotic properties of CBD. However there is a lack of studies to determine if CBD can treat cognitive symptoms (attention, memory, concept of time, and the ability to plan and organize), which is important to functional outcomes of patients.
CBD for psychosis
Looking into CBD for psychosis should be a priority for future investigations to determine how this treatment can improve the lives of patients suffering from schizophrenia. Sustained commitment to further research into CBD will speed up the progress and is very likely to yield great benefits.