Could CBD help with Schizophrenia?

Could CBD help with Schizophrenia, Dementia & other neuropsychiatric disorders?

CBD as a potential neuroprotective agent

A number of preclinical & clinical studies indicate that CBD may have viability as a neuroprotective treatment. If a substance has neuroprotective qualities, this means that it helps heal the nervous system from damage and protect against the onset of neurodegenerative disease. Various cannabinoids have been indicated as potential neuroprotective treatments, but CBD has various beneficial qualities unique to its chemistry which cause it to stand apart as a potential miracle drug for conditions such as schizophrenia, dementia, epilepsy, and other forms of psychosis and neurodegenerative disorders.

CBD for Schizophrenia

The case of CBD as a treatment for schizophrenia caught our interest early on. ‘Schizophrenia’ is a catch-all term for a variety of subsets of this disorder, which once was known as dementia praecox in the early days of psychology & psychiatry, and has had varying scope as a psychological definition throughout the century or so that has elapsed since the inception of this science. The consensus is that ‘Schizophrenia’ is a term which refers to a state in which the subject is detached from reality, often accompanied by vivid perceptions of a subjective reality experienced only by the self, known as hallucinations in the scientific community. In essence, schizophrenia is a subjective state in which one’s experience of reality does not match up with the consensus viewpoint, to various degrees of intensity.

The question at hand: Does CBD help with schizophrenia?

This question is at the heart of A systematic review of the effect of cannabidiol on cognitive function: Relevance to schizophrenia, a study conducted to determine the potential therapeutic benefit offered by CBD for schizophrenia, specifically in terms of its purported reduction of cognitive impairment in cases of schizophrenia:

“Cognitive impairment is a core symptom domain of schizophrenia, neurological disorders and substance abuse. It is characterised by deficits in learning, memory, attention and executive functioning and can severely impact daily living. Antipsychotic drugs prescribed to treat schizophrenia provide limited cognitive benefits and novel therapeutic targets are required. Cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the cannabis plant, has anti-inflammatory and antipsychotic-like properties; however, its ability to improve cognitive impairment has not been thoroughly explored.”

The full study is not available in the public domain, but in the abstract the researchers make sure to point out the known, or supposed benefits of CBD and how they would likely reduce cognitive impairment. Maintaining their objectivity, the researchers close the abstract with the following:

“The efficacy of CBD to improve cognition in schizophrenia cannot be elucidated due to lack of clinical evidence; however, given the ability of CBD to restore cognition in multiple studies of impairment, further investigation into its efficacy in schizophrenia is warranted.”

It appears that by reducing cognitive impairment, CBD may help provide a road to recovery from schizophrenia, though with best effectiveness still most likely being CBD in combination with other treatments. This review of the studies on its own isn’t definitive; later, we’ll go on to discuss the generally antipsychotic potential benefit of CBD with ample evidence. Another review of the evidence to date on CBD and schizophrenia specifically, titled Neuronal and molecular effects of cannabidiol on the mesolimbic dopamine system: Implications for novel schizophrenia treatments, echoes the view expressed by our last source:

“Growing clinical and pre-clinical evidence points to a critical role for cannabidiol (CBD), the largest phytochemical component of cannabis, as a potential pharmacotherapy for various neuropsychiatric disorders. In contrast to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is associated with acute and neurodevelopmental pro-psychotic side-effects, CBD possesses no known psychoactive or dependence-producing properties… [t]ogether with clinical evidence showing that CBD may normalize affective and cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia, CBD may represent a promising treatment for schizophrenia, acting through novel molecular and neuronal mesolimbic substrates.”

CBD as an antipsychotic & neuroprotective

A literature review titled A systematic review of the antipsychotic properties of cannabidiol in humans has this to say about CBD’s potential as a novel schizophrenia treatment:

“Despite extensive study over the past decades, available treatments for schizophrenia are only modestly effective and cause serious metabolic and neurological side effects. Therefore, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of schizophrenia. A highly promising new pharmacological target in the context of schizophrenia is the endocannabinoid system. Modulation of this system by the main psychoactive component in cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), induces acute psychotic effects and cognitive impairment. However, the non-psychotropic, plant-derived cannabinoid agent cannabidiol (CBD) may have antipsychotic properties, and thus may be a promising new agent in the treatment of schizophrenia.”

We see the same story again and again. Conventional pharmacological treatments for many, if not most common diseases have significant side-effects that reduce their viability as drugs. Cannabis is not exempt from this issue either; THC has side-effects of its own. What is piquing the interest of so many in the scientific community right now about CBD is its apparent lack of serious side-effects. This attribute, along with its far from insignificant potency, strongly indicate CBD as a potential treatment for many diseases, physiological and psychiatric. From the same review:

“Results show the ability of CBD to counteract psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairment associated with cannabis use as well as with acute THC administration. In addition, CBD may lower the risk for developing psychosis that is related to cannabis use. These effects are possibly mediated by opposite effects of CBD and THC on brain activity patterns in key regions implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, such as the striatum, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. 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.”

Other analysts have also noticed the available data on CBD as an antipsychotic. The studies which the authors reference can be found by following our link to the article and viewing the sources. After reviewing the evidence, the authors of Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid? have this to say about CBD’s potential:

“CBD acts in some experimental models as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anti-oxidant, anti-emetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent, and is therefore a potential medicine for the treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia, respectively. The neuroprotective potential of CBD, based on the combination of its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, is of particular interest and is presently under intense preclinical research in numerous neurodegenerative disorders.”

The authors appear well-versed on CBD’s purported benefits, and go on to describe their take on CBD as an antipsychotic & neuroprotective:

“The experimental evidence presented in this review supports the idea that, from a pharmaceutical point of view, CBD is an unusually interesting molecule. As presented above, its actions are channeled through several biochemical mechanisms and yet it causes essentially no undesirable side effects and its toxicity is negligible… commercial issues apart, CBD has tremendous potential as a new medicine… [i]ts neuroprotective effects are extremely valuable as no drugs exist that have similar properties.”

CBD for neuropsychiatric disorders

Much has been made of CBD’s alleged miraculous effects on otherwise untreatable types of epilepsy. The authors of a review titled Cannabidiol: pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders look into the evidence that CBD may be a novel treatment for epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders, especially those found commonly in association with epilepsy:

“Cannabidiol has a wide range of biologic effects with multiple potential sites of action in the nervous system. Preclinical evidence for antiseizure properties and a favorable side-effect profile support further development of CBD-based treatments for epilepsy. Activity in models of neuronal injury, neurodegeneration, and psychiatric disease suggest that CBD may also be effective for a wide range of central nervous system disorders that may complicate the lives of individuals with epilepsy; a treatment for both seizures and comorbid conditions is highly desirable.”

At this point, we’ve gotten used to researchers bemoaning the lack of clinical data on CBD. Earlier in the article, the authors expressed this common frustration:

“CBD is anticonvulsant in many acute animal models, but there are limited data in chronic models. The antiepileptic mechanisms of CBD are not known, but may include effects on the equilibrative nucleoside transporter… CBD has neuroprotective and antiinflammatory effects, and it appears to be well tolerated in humans, but small and methodologically limited studies of CBD in human epilepsy have been inconclusive.”

The authors of this review present the now familiar narrative of CBD as an under-researched and likely over-powered therapeutic substance with a staggeringly wide range of action.

CBD and dementia

The term dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not an actual disease. Apparently, Alzheimer’s accounts for over 60% of cases of dementia, but other types of dementia include Parkinson’s disease and Vascular dementia.

The authors of In vivo Evidence for Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer’s Disease look into the possibility that CBD may be a novel therapy for dementia, specifically for Alzheimer’s disease:

“Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that is affecting an increasing number of people. It is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-β and tau hyperphosphorylation as well as neuroinflammation and oxidative stress. Current AD treatments do not stop or reverse the disease progression, highlighting the need for new, more effective therapeutics… [t]he studies demonstrate the ability of CBD to reduce reactive gliosis and the neuroinflammatory response as well as to promote neurogenesis. Importantly, CBD also reverses and prevents the development of cognitive deficits in AD rodent models. Interestingly, combination therapies of CBD and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient of cannabis sativa, show that CBD can antagonize the psychoactive effects associated with THC and possibly mediate greater therapeutic benefits than either phytocannabinoid alone. The studies provide “proof of principle” that CBD and possibly CBD-THC combinations are valid candidates for novel AD therapies.”

Until the last couple of decades, the vast majority of cannabis research has been done on THC, not CBD. This accounts for the tone of relief many researchers express upon finding that CBD mitigates some of the effects of THC that are undesirable in a treatment.

The authors point out yet another condition in which the current treatment is insufficient; they mention that existing Alzheimer’s treatments do not halt or reverse the disease. Is it possible that CBD acts as a cognitive booster in Alzheimer’s, the same way as it apparently does in schizophrenia?

Another literature review essentially restates the position found in the article above. The authors of The therapeutic potential of the endocannabinoid system for Alzheimer’s disease tell us this about dementia and CBD:

“Dementia currently affects over 35 million people worldwide. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Currently, treatments for AD do not stop or reverse the progression of the disease and they are accompanied by side effects… Importantly, cannabinoids show anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties and have immunosuppressive effects… Furthermore, the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol is of particular interest as it lacks the psychoactive and cognition-impairing properties of other cannabinoids.”

CBD as a neuroprotective: the bottom line

We’re perpetually stunned as we watch CBD’s relative popularity explode. Recent months have brought an increase in awareness of this cannabinoid’s potential like we’ve never seen before. More and more people every day are using our CBD products for the exact conditions described above and so many more, such as neuralgia, dystonia, diabetes, cancer, and many other conditions.

It is impossible to make conclusions at this point, but the research which has been done strongly indicates that CBD has tremendous potential as a drug therapy with unanimous calls for deeper study into the ways in which CBD therapy may be able to improve and save many lives.

We’ll be looking forward to your comments and questions. As always, we’re available at 208 244 0679 and



Further reading

  1. Molecular Targets of Cannabidiol in Neurological Disorders
  2. Multiple mechanisms involved in the large-spectrum therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in psychiatric disorders