The Science Behind Why Schizophrenia Sufferers Use CBD Oil For Healing
Even as “true believers” in hemp, sometimes we’re still surprised to learn all the ways cannabidiol (CBD) can help.
Though we know that CBD supplements are used by people with everything from helping with anxiety to reducing arthritis pain, that was still the case when we first saw reports that it may also be an antipsychotic.
Considered one of several “psychotic disorders,” schizophrenia is a mental illness associated with serious distortions in a person’s thinking, which can include hallucinations or hearing voices. Other symptoms often include depression and difficulty maintaining interest in social activities and hobbies. While conventional pharmaceutical treatments often help, they also often have unpleasant side effects.
Nevertheless, when we began to investigate, we found a growing body of scientific evidence that CBD oil could help some schizophrenia sufferers. As always with this kind of article, we’ve looked at both the scientific research into CBD and schizophrenia, while also considering anecdotal reports from everyday CBD consumers.
If you have a mental illness, it’s important that you don’t make changes to your treatment regimen without advice from medical professionals. However, it’s our hope that articles like this one will give people with schizophrenia, and their loved ones, more tools to use in their quest to manage this illness.
‘Effective, Safe & Well-tolerated’: Preliminary Cbd & Schizophrenia Research Is Very Promising
It’s interesting to note that it was actually some of the negative effects of cannabis that helped researchers consider cannabidiol as a potential antipsychotic. Though some of the research associated with this topic is controversial — thanks in large part to the negative atmosphere surrounding all drug research under the War on Drugs — there do seem to be some links between psychotic episodes and cannabis use.
Investigations into this link led to the realization that high-CBD forms of psychoactive cannabis seem to lead to fewer psychotic episodes, as noted in a study published in 2011 by Schizophrenia Research. In 2006, scientists also noted that CBD seemed to reduce artificially induced symptoms of psychosis in both animals and healthy volunteers, according to a study published by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research.
Though results are still preliminary, research looking directly at schizophrenia and CBD has been largely positive. In 2015, two scientists, T.A. Iseger and M.G. Bossong, published a systematic review of all CBD and schizophrenia studies in Schizophrenia Research.
The pair concluded, “The first small-scale clinical studies with CBD treatment of patients with psychotic symptoms further confirm the potential of CBD as an effective, safe and well-tolerated antipsychotic compound, although large randomised clinical trials will be needed before this novel therapy can be introduced into clinical practice.”
If CBD can be used as an antipsychotic, it is likely because of the close links between the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which provides the body with its own innate cannabis-like chemicals, and mental health. According to a study published in 2014 by Current Pharmaceutical Design, “ECS modulates emotion, reward processing, sleep regulation,” and even the behavior of our adrenal gland and our ability to process traumatic memories. In this light, it becomes less surprising that CBD might help.
As for those controversial ties between cannabis use and psychosis, we’ll defer to this summation written by Arielle Gerard, a medical student writing for “Medical Jane” in 2015:
“Although there is no compelling evidence to support the idea that the use of whole-plant, raw cannabis causes schizophrenia … it is very important to note that use of whole-plant cannabis, especially with higher concentrations of THC … may lead to premature development or exacerbation of schizophrenic symptoms … and therefore should not be used by individuals with a personal or family history of psychotic disorders or conditions that may predispose to psychosis. At this point in time, whole-plant cannabis (regardless of cannabinoid ratio/concentration) is NOT recommended for the treatment of schizophrenia.”
In other words, cannabis probably doesn’t cause psychosis, but people with a family history of psychotic disorders might want to avoid getting high.
‘CBD Made The Voices Stop’: People With Schizophrenia Sound Off On CBD
“CBD made the voices stop,” wrote a redditor named theflexorcist in a post made in May 2017, one of the most recent discussions of the topic on /r/Schizophrenia.
“Even after all the research I’ve done, I was so skeptical,” they wrote. “Honestly. My bf had to convince me to take it. Well after 10 minutes I had almost no psychotic symptoms.”
In response, a redditor named dirtpig replied that CBD had also helped:
“I have been using CBD oil … for a few months now. It works well. For me, the symptoms of schizophrenia are still there, but lessened.”
Redditor too_real_4_TV added, “I’d say it helps with the anxiety and depression as well as the antipsychotic effect.”
Over on the CBD subreddit, redditor 234879 took a somewhat cautious approach to the topic in a discussion started in January. “It is possible CBD could be used as an adjunct treatment but I don’t think it is a cure all for schizophrenia.”
The redditor named pineconeperson1 further noted many studies of CBD alone for treatment of schizophrenia used very high doses, which could be prohibitively expensive. “I took [CBD] previously for psychotic-like symptoms and it definitely helped on all fronts, but I couldn’t afford to take it regularly.”
One of the founders of /r/CBD/, jonathanappleweed, who also has schizophrenia, chimed in excitedly on another thread from 2014. “I created /r/CBD with my buddy last year; I never could have hoped that there would be actual anecdotal evidence for CBD helping with schizophrenia.”
CBD & Schizophrenia: Empowering People To Make Better Choices
As with most mental illnesses, there are no miracle cures for schizophrenia. Many people are able to live happy, productive and healthy lives with this illness and, undoubtedly, modern pharmaceuticals have contributed a lot to this.
But as jonathanappleweed wrote on reddit, “the very worst thing you can possibly do to a schizo person is load them up with drugs and call it a day.” People with schizophrenia need support of trained physicians and caring loved ones, most of all, and most seem best served by diverse treatments that include pharmaceuticals alongside other options from exercise to nutritional supplements like CBD.
We hope readers of this article who have schizophrenia, or know someone who does, will look into the research for themselves and consider all their options for treatment. We believe a person with more knowledge is more empowered to make the right choices for their care.
* This article is part 3 of our series of exploring the potential benefits of CBD oil. Read our other posts:
- Science Explains How CBD Oil Could Help Ease Your Anxiety
- Science Explains Why CBD Oil Could Help Ease Your Chronic Pain
- Science Explains How CBD Oil Could Help Arthritis
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