CBD for Psychosis and Schizophrenia: Recent Updates

Psychosis is often considered one of the most severe mental issues. At its peak, the adverse effects are perhaps even more profound than generalized depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Psychosis represents a complete detachment from the world of reality. It’s when individuals begin displaying highly erratic behavior and can no longer distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

Psychosis is a syndrome with several symptoms. It is also one of the criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Some say that without psychosis, there is no schizophrenia. However, having psychosis alone doesn’t mean one has schizophrenia, as other symptoms are required. Also, work by psychiatrist Dr. Alexandre Loch, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, suggests that schizophrenia is not a psychotic disorder at all!

It seems unlikely that a natural therapy like CBD, or any medication, is effective in reversing the onset of the condition. However, studies that analyze the effects of CBD on schizophrenia and psychosis are ongoing. In fact, scientists are starting to turn their attention specifically to cannabidiol as a possible treatment.

In this article, we’ll review some of these recent and relevant studies. They show positive signs of CBD for psychosis being a potential treatment option. Please remember that cannabidiol is NOT a cure for the severe stages of schizophrenia or psychosis. However, it could potentially help patients to manage the symptoms.


What Happens During Psychosis and Schizophrenia?

Scientists are not entirely sure of the precise causes of psychosis or schizophrenia onset. They are unsure as to why some people develop psychotic symptoms, and others do not. Unlike medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease, no one has pinpointed an exact physiological condition that accounts for the disorder.

However, it’s generally agreed that some combination of physical, genetic, and environmental influences account for the onset of the disorder.

In terms of genetics, for example, schizophrenia tends to run in families. Someone with a family member that went through psychotic episodes in the past is potentially more likely to develop the disorder. However, no single gene has been traced to the disease onset.

Likewise, research suggests that individuals with psychosis undergo changes in the physical structure of the brain. While subtle, it’s believed that these changes may result in some chemical depletion or malfunction, which leads to a separation from reality.

Neurotransmitters may also play a role in the onset of psychosis and schizophrenia. These are chemicals in the brain that relay messages between cells. It is believed that irregularities in their activity (specifically dopamine and serotonin) are highly influential in developing symptoms.

In terms of environmental triggers, things like stress and drug abuse could prove influential in the onset of the disorder. This is especially the case when combined with any of the aforementioned chemical/physical irregularities.

And lastly, concerning prevalence, it’s likely that psychosis is more common than one might think. According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects 20 million people worldwide[1]. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that up to 3% of the American population has psychosis[2].

Additional Statistics on Psychosis and Schizophrenia

An estimated 40% of schizophrenia patients receive no treatment[3]. This is due in large part to the extremely high expense of medication, as well as a lack of healthcare availability to a majority of sufferers. Likewise, though, this is also why CBD is becoming a popular treatment option; it’s widely available to everyone for a relatively manageable price.

Here are some other statistics involving the prevalence of psychosis across the U.S:

  • It is one of the leading causes of disability in America.
  • Roughly 75% of schizophrenia patients develop the illness between the ages of 16 and 25[4].
  • Its onset is at least partially genetic.
  • To receive an official schizophrenia diagnosis, individuals must show consistent symptoms for a minimum of six months.
  • According to research, roughly 25% of people with schizophrenia recover entirely from the first episode. Another 25% improve substantially with treatment. Yet another quarter improves somewhat with treatment but needs a lot of support. 15% live life with no improvement, while many of the remaining 10% commit suicide[5].
  • The estimated annual economic costs of treatment are between $32.5 and $65 billion[6].
  • At least 33% of all homeless adults have some sort of psychosis[7].

CBD for Psychosis and Schizophrenia: How Could It Help?

Please note that CBD oil tincture is the most popular type of cannabidiol. The vast majority of medical patients prefer this method because it involves no smoking and doesn’t produce a high.

There are a few encouraging signs from recent research. Bhattacharyya et al. published the results of a randomized clinical trial in the JAMA Psychiatry journal in November 2018. It consisted of brain imaging, which suggested that CBD could reduce the symptoms of psychosis. The cannabinoid achieved this by resetting activity in three different parts of the brain.


The study in question involved 33 volunteers who all had psychotic symptoms. There were also 19 individuals who had never experienced a psychotic episode. They acted as a control group. One-half of the people with psychosis received 600mg of CBD in a single oral dose. The other half took a placebo. The control group didn’t get any medication.

Next, all participants had to complete a memory task that engaged three parts of the brain linked with the start of psychosis. They are the striatum, midbrain, and medial temporal cortex. The researchers scanned all participants with an MRI scanner during the task. The scans of the psychosis patients showed abnormal activity compared to the control group.

However, those who consumed the CBD showed a less severe instance of abnormalities compared to the placebo group. The researchers believe it is a sign that large doses of CBD could reset abnormal activity in certain brain regions.

This was a small study with limitations that couldn’t take into account every factor that could influence the outcome. The researchers were also unable to determine if the effect was only short-term. Nonetheless, it was a positive step forward.

Other Studies Into CBD, Psychosis, and Schizophrenia

A study by McGuire et al., published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in March 2018, looked at CBD as adjunctive therapy in schizophrenia. It involved a double-blind parallel-group trial. Schizophrenia patients received either 1000mg of CBD a day or a placebo.

After six weeks, the CBD group had significantly lower levels of positive psychotic symptoms than the placebo group. Also, they were more likely to rate themselves as ‘improved’ and less likely to rate themselves as feeling ‘severely unwell.’ Patients also reported tolerating the compound quite well.

Batalla et al. had a systematic review published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in July 2019. The researchers looked at the potential of CBD as a treatment for psychosis and addiction. They found that in some studies, CBD was an effective treatment for psychosis. However, the review pointed out that the dosage and administration of CBD varied. Also, many of the studies didn’t describe the source of the CBD. Even so, there is ample evidence to warrant further investigation.

Last Words on CBD for Schizophrenia and Psychosis

The most important thing to mention regarding CBD for schizophrenia is that there is no cure or quick fix for the disorder.

However, CBD has potential as a means of addressing some of the symptoms. It could mollify onset symptoms and reduce the frequency of intermittent psychotic episodes. Hopefully, it will offer a solution of sorts for the millions of people across the globe who do not have access to treatment.

Pharmaceutical medications and expensive antipsychotics are not an option for many who need treatment. CBD is efficacious, represents a healthy, natural option that’s more widely available.

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