Cannabis is a substance that is widely used for recreational and medicinal purposes, and a group of researchers at the University of New Mexico sought to revisit cannabis' medicinal applications for treating patients with schizophrenia.
The team of psychology Ph.D. candidate Jegason Diviant, his advisor, psychology associate professor Jacob M. Vigil, and economist Sarah S. Stith initiated a literature review to look at the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia. The researchers' conclusions were published in late 2018 in the journal Medicine, in an article titled “The Role of Cannabis within an Emerging Perspective on Schizophrenia.”
The study's authors note that while THC has been a main focal point of previous research, other cannabinoids have taken a back seat — and some of them could be beneficial. The review concludes that cannabidiol (CBD) has the potential to be a safe treatment option for schizophrenia.
“I think that CBDV is also going to prove to be a powerful antipsychotic agent. I think cannabis is the ultimate drug to try for schizophrenia as a primary agent,” Jegason Diviant wrote in an email. “There are thousands of strains with over a hundred cannabinoids and several hundreds of terpenes, giving a nearly infinite combination to maximize therapeutic potential.”
Schizophrenia is a debilitating disorder that distorts how the brain functions. Its symptoms include hallucinations, disorganized behavior, and incoherent speech. According to the review, the disorder affects approximately 0.5 percent of the US population.
The group's work points out that cannabis has a brief, notorious history with schizophrenia. To wit, the researchers address that some researchers and medical professionals have labeled cannabis as a symptom-inducing agent, rather than a therapeutic one.
The paper points out that such studies, which attempt to correlate cannabis use with schizophrenia,
suffer from the conflation of THC's effects and those of other plant cannabinoids. The group found that a 2001 study shows that CBD could, in essence, offset THC-agitated symptoms that occurred during psychotic episodes. In addition, they reviewed a placebo-controlled study from 2017. It showed that when used alongside antipsychotic pharmaceuticals, CBD aided in reducing symptoms, compared with the placebo.
Diviant went on to explain that CBD can be isolated or included in a full spectrum, and since it's a non-competitive indirect inhibitor of the endocannabinoid system's CB1 receptor, it can minimize or completely mask unwanted side effects of THC. Cannabis flower can be vaped at various temperatures so as to dial in the cannabinoids and terpenes that are released without combusting the plant material.
“Cannabis does not have the side effects of antipsychotics, and if anything, it promotes health and strengthens immune function by modulating it,” he wrote.