Schizophrenia is a complicated psychiatric disorder that affects 1.1% of the world’s population. Many people may have the disease without even knowing it because symptoms normally do not develop until somewhere between the ages 16 and 25. The most common symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions, hallucinations, and chaotic behaviour and speech. Schizophrenia can be extremely detrimental to the lives of people and it is believed that one third to one half of homeless individuals suffer from schizophrenia.
Lack of Effective Treatments for Schizophrenia
There is a lack of effective treatment options for people with schizophrenia and all of the options available require a constant administration of medication. Current treatments include a cocktail of antipsychotic medications, which are determined based on what symptoms are most prominent in the individual patient. There are many medications available to help with hallucinations and delusions, but there are not many to help with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Cannabis, however, may be able to help relieve some cognitive problems that can come from schizophrenia.
CBD May Help Treat the Symptoms of Schizophrenia
A recent rat-modeled study published in the journal Nature found that cannabidiol (CBD) derived from cannabis may help with cognitive impairment related to schizophrenia. The research was conducted at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) in New South Wales, Australia. In the study, rats were infected prenatally with polycytidilic acid. The acid helps replicate similar symptoms to psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and produces a generation of mice with symptoms. Once born, the mice were treated using chronic CBD treatment and were tested on social interaction and cognitive function.
The symptomatic mice were given 10 mg of CBD for three weeks and many factors were measured, including body weight and food and water intake. A battery of tests was conducted on the mice during and following their treatment with CBD. The tests were conducted to look at the effectiveness of the CBD at helping counteract some of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and included T-maze tests, novel object recognition tests and social interaction tests.
The study's lead author, Ashleigh Osborne, said of the study’s results, “We found that CBD was able to restore recognition and working memory, as well as social behaviour to normal levels. These findings are interesting because they suggest that CBD may be able to treat some of the symptoms of schizophrenia that are seemingly resistant to existing medications. In addition, CBD treatment did not alter body weight or food intake, which are common side effects of antipsychotic drug treatment.”
The effects that CBD had on the mice could indicate a major breakthrough in the world of schizophrenia treatment, because it appears to achieve something that no other medications have been able to do, including rebuilding cognitive potential and improving social interaction.
THC May Worsen Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Cannabis as a whole, however, may not be good for schizophrenia sufferers because tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is believed to potentially worsen the symptom of schizophrenia. Though THC can be very helpful for some medical conditions, it could be detrimental to sufferers of schizophrenia, whereas CBD may be extremely beneficial.
The researchers also conducted a review of studies on the therapeutic value of CBD before conducting this recent rat modeled study. "From this review, we found that CBD will not improve learning and memory in healthy brains, but may improve aspects of learning and memory in illnesses associated with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer's disease, as well as neurological and neuro-inflammatory disorders,” said Dr. Katrina Green, one of the lead researchers on the recent study.
The review highlighted that cannabis doesn’t have the same effects on people who have conditions and those who don’t. Some of this reaction could potentially be tied to the idea of endocannabinoid deficiency, which hypothesizes that a lack of internally produced endocannabinoids could be linked to certain conditions—meaning that a better state of homeostasis can be achieved when the body is supplemented by cannabinoids from cannabis. People without a deficiency, however, could instead experience no positive attributes from the cannabinoids because their bodies are naturally in equilibrium.
More research is necessary looking into why cannabinoids seem to be effective at targeting cognitive problems related to schizophrenia, because currently there is no definitive answer. The researchers of the study hope to be able to conduct more studies and eventually a clinical trial to see if there might be similar effects on humans with schizophrenia as seen modeled in rats in this study. This study provides yet another look into how cannabis could potentially help a group of people who find it difficult to receive adequate medication for their condition.