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Study: CBD From Marijuana May ‘Reset’ The Brain To Counteract Symptoms Of Psychosis

Petri dish containing medical cannabis. (Getty Royalty Free)

Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating compound in marijuana, continues drawing attention as a potential treatment for disorders and illnesses ranging from epilepsy to cancer. Now a new brain imaging study suggests that a single dose of CBD can reduce symptoms of psychosis by “resetting” activity in three brain areas. If replicable, the study offers the first evidence-based explanation for how CBD works in the brain to counteract psychosis, with results that could help generate new treatments.

Psychosis is not a single condition or disorder, but is rather a symptom of other disorders characterized by detachment from reality. Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren’t real, including hallucinations, is typical of a psychotic episode. While the exact causes of psychosis aren’t known, it’s thought to be triggered by mental illness, trauma, substance abuse and extreme stress. Even lack of sleep can spark an episode.

While psychosis is most often associated with schizophrenia, it actually affects a much larger segment of the population. At least 100,000 people a year experience their first onset of psychosis in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

This was a small study of 33 participants who were experiencing psychotic symptoms. A smaller group of healthy participants served as a control group. Half the psychosis group was given one 600 mg oral dose of CBD (a dose that was “previously effective in established psychosis” according to the study), the other half received an identical placebo capsule. The control group didn’t receive any drug. Then all of the participants completed a memory task designed to engage three brain areas that have been linked to the onset of psychosis (specifically the striatum, medial temporal cortex, and midbrain) while their brains were examined with an fMRI scanner.

The scans showed abnormal activity in the brains of the participants experiencing symptoms, as compared to the healthy control group – that much was expected. But the brains of those who had taken a dose of CBD showed less severe abnormalities than the brains of those who had taken a placebo, suggesting that the compound was “resetting” abnormal activity in the key brain areas.

“The results have started unravelling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional anti-psychotics,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College, London.

The study did have limitations. Aside from being a small study with a methodology unable to account for every factor that might influence the outcome, the researchers also noted that they can’t be sure the results weren’t caused by “the rapid changes in cerebral perfusion that are known to occur with a single dose of psychoactive drugs.” In other words, they may have witnessed a short-term effect that won’t last. Quoting from the study: “It is also unclear whether the effects of CBD will persist after longer-term dosing.”

The next step, already underway, is a large-scale human trial to replicate the results and determine if CBD is a viable treatment. If successful, the drug would be immediately differentiated from other meds on the market—including some that have been around since the 1950s—that produce inconsistent results. Some of the most common meds also have notoriously severe side effects, including muscle tremors and overpowering sedation.

“There is an urgent need for a safe treatment for young people at risk of psychosis,” added Dr. Bhattacharyya. “One of the main advantages of cannabidiol is that it is safe and seems to be very well tolerated, making it in some ways an ideal treatment.”

The study represents another move forward for CBD as a treatment for brain-based disorders. Earlier this year, the US FDA approved the first drug comprised of CBD to treat severe forms of epilepsy. While CBD derived from cannabis is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law in the US, hemp-derived CBD is more widely accessible, though its legality in terms of federal law is still murky at best.

Members of this research team conducted an earlier study showing that CBD seems to counterbalance the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gets users high. THC has been linked to the onset of psychosis in some users and appears to mimic aspects of psychosis in the brain. If CBD turns out to be an effective anti-psychotic, these findings will highlight yet another striking paradox of a plant that science is only now really beginning to understand.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

In another potential research success for CBD, an initial study finds that the cannabis compound could be an effective treatment for psychosis.

Reversing Brain Damage with Cannabis

Day by day new studies are being done in favor of medicinal marijuana, designed to help people understand its properties and different applications. Each illness needs a specific combination of cannabinoids due to the fact that each cannabinoid affects the body in different ways. You can treat a myriad of issues if you consume the strain best suited for each illness, and today we’re going to talk about how cannabis can help reverse brain damage.

A study done by Brazilian scientists supports the theory that THC in low dosages (o.oo2mg/kg) can help prevent brain cell death, which supposes an amazing breakthrough when it comes to neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Based on that study, investigators at the University of Tel Aviv decided to do their own investigation. Led by Miriam Fishbein-Kaminietsky, the investigators studied mice which were injected with 10mg/kg of lipopolysaccharides, a substance that causes brain swelling.

Some mice were injected with 0.002g/kg of THC 48 hours after being treated with lipopolysaccharides, while others were injected 1-7 days later. The objective of this experiment was to identify how and when THC is best introduced to the body.

3 weeks later they published their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, indicating that all of the mice had responded amazingly to the treatment. This means that the time of the dosage was irrelevant. THC is small doses can be used both to treat and prevent brain swelling as well as other neurodegenerative issues without provoking any sort of psychoactive effect.

This new application for cannabis opens a lot of doors that were barely closed in the first place; many athletes run the risk of hitting their heads, and a lot of these athletes treat brain swelling with medication like opiates.

There are some cases of NFL players that, once retired, suffered depression, memory loss, light sensibility, mental and personality disorders, migraines and many other issues. A lot of them went from being stars to living on the street, needing psychiatric treatment or in extreme cases, committing suicide. All of this is due to a disorder called CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) which wasn’t even accepted as an actual disorder until recently.

After many cases and 91 bodies that families gave up to be analyzed, a staggering 87 of them were proven to have CTE. This disorder can’t keep being ignored by the NFL due to such staggering evidence. This disorder is suffered by basketball players, hockey players and boxers.

What we have to do now is wait to see how the federations react to this topic due to the fact that using cannabis is totally illegal in these sports, causing fines and in some cases, early imposed retirement.

It’s known that although cannabis use is illegal, athletes have free range to use opiates for pain relief and steroids to increase muscle mass. If players were treated with the right amount of THC (which is so small that it doesn’t provoke any psychoactive effects), then all of these cases of CTE could be avoided.

Learn how doctors are reversing brain damage with cannabis; every day we're learning new and interesting things about this magnificent plant.