Updated on April 1, 2024

CBD for Schizophrenia

Fact Checked

Key takeaways

  • Schizophrenia affects over 24 million people globally.
  • Research shows that 1 out of every 300 people have schizophrenia.
  • CBD improves the symptoms of schizophrenia by supporting antipsychotic and anxiousness-reducing effects.
  • THC can worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a significant mental health disorder affecting approximately 0.32% of the worldwide population. This translates to 24 million people globally, representing 1 out of every 300 individuals in every country. Among young adults, the prevalence is slightly higher, with 1 out of every 222 individuals, or 0.45% of the global population, experiencing schizophrenia.

This disorder typically emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood, impacting thinking, emotions, and behavior. Symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, abnormal motor behavior, negative symptoms, and cognitive impairments. While the exact cause of schizophrenia is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

Despite the challenges associated with schizophrenia, individuals with proper treatment and support can lead fulfilling lives. Treatment often includes a combination of antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy, and a supportive network of mental health professionals, family, and friends. Early intervention and ongoing care play a crucial role in managing symptoms and improving overall well-being.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complex mental health disorder that can manifest through a variety of symptoms. These symptoms are often categorized into several groups:

Positive Symptoms:

  1. Hallucinations: Perceptions in the absence of external stimuli, commonly auditory (hearing voices) but can also be visual or sensory.
  2. Delusions: Strongly held false beliefs that are resistant to reasoning or contradictory evidence.
  3. Thought Disorders: Disorganized thinking, which may result in impaired reasoning, difficulty organizing thoughts, or maintaining a coherent conversation.

Negative Symptoms:

  1. Reduced Emotional Expression: Limited facial expressions, poor eye contact, and diminished ability to express emotions.
  2. Limited Initiative: Difficulty starting and sustaining activities, leading to reduced motivation.
  3. Social Withdrawal: A tendency to isolate oneself and avoid social interactions.
  4. Diminished Ability to Experience Pleasure: Anhedonia, or reduced capacity to experience joy or pleasure.

Disorganized Symptoms:

  1. Disorganized Thinking: Impaired thought processes that can lead to communication difficulties and erratic behavior.
  2. Disorganized or Abnormal Motor Behavior: Unusual movements, unpredictable actions, or difficulties in performing daily activities.

Cognitive Symptoms:

  1. Impaired Memory: Difficulty remembering and organizing information.
  2. Attention Issues: Problems with focus and attention.
  3. Executive Function Impairments: Challenges in planning, organizing, and executing tasks.

It's important to note that individuals with schizophrenia may not exhibit all these symptoms, and the combination and intensity of symptoms can change over time.

What does research say about CBD for schizophrenia?

In 2021, a review highlighted that using cannabis in people with schizophrenia seemed linked to more severe symptoms and outcomes. But here's the twist: cannabis has many compounds, with THC responsible for the "high." This review dug into 11 studies, checking out THC and CBD separately and together. Results were a mixed bag for both cannabinoids when it came to things like cognition and symptoms. The conclusion? The research didn't give a thumbs-up for using CBD or THC to treat schizophrenia.

However, in another 2021 study, things got interesting. It found that for cognition, CBD might have some perks. They treated 42 people with schizophrenia using CBD or amisulpride, an antipsychotic. Both helped with cognition, but CBD had fewer side effects. Keep in mind, though, this was a small study mostly involving young men. So, while the bigger picture on CBD for schizophrenia is still a puzzle, this study hints at its potential benefits.

Possible roles of CBD on schizophrenia:

The role of CBD (cannabidiol) in schizophrenia is an area of ongoing research, and while some studies and anecdotal reports suggest potential benefits, a clear and comprehensive understanding is still evolving. Here are some aspects of CBD's potential role in schizophrenia:

  1. Antipsychotic Properties: Some research suggests that CBD may have antipsychotic properties, possibly offering a therapeutic effect in managing symptoms of schizophrenia. However, the exact mechanisms through which CBD exerts these effects are not fully understood.
  2. Neuroprotective Effects: A 2013 study reported how CBD possesses a strong neuroprotective effect. The researchers discovered how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to produce strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on test subjects. Further analysis shows CBD may hold a potential therapeutic benefit that influences brain function. This neuroprotective aspect is being explored in the context of various neurological and psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. 
  3. Supporting the reduction of anxiousness and Stress: Anxiousness and stress are often associated with schizophrenia, and CBD has been studied for its anxiolytic (nervousness-reducing) effects. By modulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD may impact stress responses and emotional well-being.
  4. Cognitive Function: Some studies suggest that CBD might have positive effects on cognitive function. Cognitive impairments are common in schizophrenia, and research is exploring whether CBD could have a role in addressing these cognitive deficits.
  5. Improved Sleep: Sleep disturbances are common in individuals with schizophrenia, and CBD has been studied for its potential to improve sleep quality. Better sleep may positively impact overall well-being for individuals with schizophrenia.

Frequently asked Questions

Can Cannabis make schizophrenia worse?

THC may worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia. Unlike CBD, it has a psychoactive effect on the brain and can make you high. If you are considering products for schizophrenia we would suggest you avoid products with high concentration of THC.

Is CBD a good antipsychotic?

Yes, CBD is a good antipsychotic agent, thanks to its interaction with several receptors.

What is the mechanism of action of CBD oil for schizophrenia?

While it is clear that CBD may hold some promise in dealing with symptoms associated with schizophrenia, the mechanism of action is still unknown.

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Batalla A, Janssen H, Gangadin SS, Bossong MG. The Potential of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Psychosis and Addiction: Who Benefits Most? A Systematic Review. J Clin Med. 2019 Jul 19;8(7):1058. doi: 10.3390/jcm8071058. PMID: 31330972; PMCID: PMC6678854.

Ahmed S, Roth RM, Stanciu CN, Brunette MF. The Impact of THC and CBD in Schizophrenia: A Systematic Review. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Jul 23;12:694394. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.694394. PMID: 34366924; PMCID: PMC8343183.

Leweke FM, Rohleder C, Gerth CW, Hellmich M, Pukrop R, Koethe D. Cannabidiol and Amisulpride Improve Cognition in Acute Schizophrenia in an Explorative, Double-Blind, Active-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Apr 29;12:614811. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.614811. PMID: 33995015; PMCID: PMC8117353.

Sorkhou M, Bedder RH, George TP. The Behavioral Sequelae of Cannabis Use in Healthy People: A Systematic Review. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Feb 16;12:630247. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.630247. PMID: 33664685; PMCID: PMC7920961.

Chesney, E., Oliver, D. & McGuire, P. Cannabidiol (CBD) as a novel treatment in the early phases of psychosis. Psychopharmacology 239, 1179–1190 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-021-05905-9

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