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New Study: CBD May Help Treat Schizophrenia

Findings in a new study indicate that CBD could help treat some of the negative and drug resistant symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

Evidence in an animal study published in the latest issue of Neuropsychopharmacology suggests that cannabidiol (CBD), a natural compound found in cannabis, could be beneficial for managing symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Researchers at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute investigated the non-psychoactive cannabinoid’s ability to address the cognitive impairments and concentration and memory difficulties that often affect those with the mental disorder.

“We found that CBD was able to restore recognition and working memory, as well as social behavior to normal levels,” said PhD candidate and study author Ashleigh Osborne.

Affecting more than 200,000 Americans every year, schizophrenia is a severe long-term disorder that adversely affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, scientists believe the disorder is related to an imbalance in the neurotransmitter-involving chemical reactions that occur in the brain.

Traditional treatments prescribed for schizophrenia are generally effective at addressing delusions and hallucinations, but are not as helpful for treating the cognitive and negative symptoms of the disorder, which include blunted emotional expression and social withdrawal. Antipsychotic medications also commonly have negative side effects, including fatigue, movement disorder, spasms, drowsiness, tremors, and weight gain.

“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,” said Osborne. “In addition, CBD treatments did not alter body weight or food intake, which are common side effects of antipsychotic drug treatment.”

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Osborne and her supervisors, Dr. Katrina Green and Professor Nadia Solowij from the University of Wollongong (UOW), had originally been conducting a research review of 27 studies when they uncovered evidence of CBD’s neuroprotective effects.

“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 Green. “Evidence suggests that CBD is neuroprotective and can reduce cognitive impairment associated with use of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis.”

That evidence inspired Osborne to look into CBD’s potential therapeutic benefits for cognitive impairments related to schizophrenia. She paired with Senior Professor Xu-Feng Huang and PhD candidate Ilijana Babic to conduct the study.

The research team used a prenatal infection model to examine the effects of chronic CBD treatments on cognition and social interaction. On the 15th day of gestation, pregnant rats were infected with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, a compound used to generate psychiatric disorders. They then injected the male rat offspring with 10 milligrams per kilogram of CBD for three weeks. The rats were tested for cognition and working memory using rewarded alternation in T-maze tests and the Novel Objective Recognition test. A social interaction test was used to measure sociability. Body weight, and food and water intake were also measured.

You can access the entire study, “Improved Social Interaction, Recognition and Working Memory with Cannabidiol Treatment in a Prenatal Infection (poly I:C) Rat Model,” via Neuropsychopharmacology.

Learn about the previous research examine cannabinoids and schizophrenia by visiting our education page. Keep up with the latest cannabis-related studies through our news feed.