- General Health
CBD for Schizophrenia: How Could It Help?
Living with schizophrenia is a frightening and often depressing experience. It is a severe mental illness that causes disturbances in behavior, emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. When the symptoms become really bad, it can become almost impossible to differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t.
For decades, it was a poorly understood condition. The main form of treatment seemed to involve copious amounts of drugs. These days, the range of options is far better. But people living with the condition also look towards unconventional ways to tackle the situation. It means that an increasing number of people are trying CBD for schizophrenia.
There is some debate as to the prevalence of the condition in the United States. In 2018, the official NIMH website claimed that 0.3% of Americans had the illness. However, research indicates that the real rate is 1%. If this figure is accurate, it suggests that the NIMH is ‘missing’ millions of schizophrenia patients.
The condition is also an expensive one to treat. The overall cost of schizophrenia is well over $1 billion per week! While there are dozens of new medications for the condition, most of them carry side effects. In this article, we look at the illness in greater depth and the research behind CBD and schizophrenia. And also check out whether CBD can help people living with schizophrenia.
What Is Schizophrenia?
It is a serious long-term mental disorder. A schizophrenic abnormally interprets reality. When it is at its worst, a patient can suffer from hallucinations and delusions. At the time of writing, there is no cure for the disease. Research has improved in recent years and has led to safer and more effective ways to treat symptoms.
Scientists are also trying to gain a greater understanding of what causes the condition. The process includes studying genetics, using advanced imaging to look at the brain, and conducting behavioral research.
There are many misconceptions surrounding schizophrenia. It does NOT mean you have a split or multiple personalities. The vast majority of people with the condition aren’t violent or dangerous. There is also a myth that most of those living with schizophrenia live in a hospital, or else they are homeless. Research suggests that the condition affects both genders at approximately the same level. It seems to have an earlier onset in men, however.
The rates of schizophrenia are somewhat similar globally. Individuals with the condition tend to have a lower life expectancy. One of the main reasons for this is the higher rates of medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Schizophrenia Symptoms & Signs
If you are considering CBD, make sure you understand the general and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. For the most part, the condition involves problems with emotions, behaviors, and cognition. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Hallucinations: This could involve hearing or seeing something that doesn’t exist. The most common hallucination involves ‘hearing voices.’
- Delusions: A person with schizophrenia may believe they are being harmed when nothing is happening, for example. Other delusions include a belief you have exceptional talent, or a major disaster is about to occur.
- Abnormal Functioning: Examples include a person appearing to lack emotion. Alternatively, they may neglect personal hygiene or lose interest in everyday activities.
- Disorganized Motor Behavior: In this instance, you could become agitated for no apparent reason or act like a child.
- Unusual Speech or Thoughts: A person with schizophrenia may provide ‘nonsense’ answers to questions.
Bizarrely enough, the above are often classed as ‘positive’ symptoms of schizophrenia. What the term means is that they are a sign that the condition may start happening.
In males, symptoms often occur in the early to mid-20s. In females, symptoms could manifest by the time they reach 30 years of age. It is very rare for physicians to diagnose the condition in children or adults aged 45+.
In some cases, teenagers could develop schizophrenia. Symptoms include:
- Lack of motivation
- A sudden drop in academic performance
- Withdrawal from family and friends
If the condition isn’t treated, it can cause severe problems. Likely complications include:
- An increased likelihood of suicide
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Anxiety disorders
- Social isolation
- Medical problems
- A feeling of being victimized
- A higher chance of financial problems
Researchers are not sure what causes schizophrenia. However, they believe it is a combination of brain development, genetics, and environment.
- Genetics: The belief is that schizophrenia runs in families, even though there is no single gene responsible. In identical twins, if one develops the condition, there is a 50% chance of it impacting the other. In non-identical twins, the risk decreases to 12.5%.
- Brain Development: According to neuroimaging studies, people with schizophrenia have differences in their central nervous system and brain structure. All evidence points to it being a brain disease.
- Neurotransmitters: A person may develop schizophrenia due to problems with naturally-occurring brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.
You are more likely to develop the illness if you take mind-altering drugs during your teenage years. Other risk factors include a family history of schizophrenia, and specific pregnancy and birth complications.
Types of Schizophrenia
There are several types of schizophrenia. Here is an overview:
- Paranoid Schizophrenia: This is the most prevalent form. Symptoms include delusions or hallucinations. In general, your emotions and speech remain unaffected.
- Catatonic Schizophrenia: It is the rarest form and noticeable via limited and unusual movements. Someone living with this condition often switches between being extremely still and very active. They may also mimic the movement and speech of others.
- Undifferentiated Schizophrenia: The diagnosis typically includes signs of paranoid, catatonic, or hebephrenic schizophrenia. However, it doesn’t feat neatly into any ‘box.’
- Schizoaffective Disorder: The two types include depressive and bipolar. The former involves major depressive episodes. The latter involves episodes of mania and major depression.
- Hebephrenic Schizophrenia: Disorganized schizophrenia develops when you are 15-25 years of age. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts and actions. A patient’s speech pattern is unusual, and it is often difficult to understand what they are saying.
Diagnosis & Schizophrenia Treatment
When attempting to diagnose the condition, physicians try to rule out other mental health disorders. They must also try to ensure that the symptoms are not down to drug abuse. Typically, a mental health professional gets involved. You will undergo a physical exam and other screenings such as a CT or MRI scan.
You may also submit to a psychiatric evaluation. An expert will likely use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria to diagnose schizophrenia.
Sadly, a person with schizophrenia requires treatment for the rest of their life. The schizophrenia medication prescribed is designed to manage the signs and symptoms of the condition. The lengthy list of adverse effects causes schizophrenia patients to think twice about using drugs. Side effects include sexual problems, higher risk of diabetes, and restlessness.
There are first-generation antipsychotics and second-generation antipsychotics available. As the name suggests, first-generation drugs were used a long time ago; both work by blocking receptors in the brain’s dopamine pathways. However, first-gen drugs carried a lot of side effects and were replaced by second-gen medication.
Patients may also undergo psychosocial interventions. These include therapy, social skills training, and vocational rehabilitation. During periods of crisis, it is often necessary to go into hospital. One interesting option used by patients is CBD for schizophrenia.
CBD For Schizophrenia – How Could it Help?
There is a belief that chronic THC use, particularly as a teenager, could increase the risk of schizophrenia. There is also evidence that THC increases the genetically-determined risk of psychosis. The intoxicating cannabinoid activates the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) CB1 receptors. This process reduces glutamate, a brain chemical, which decreases NMDA receptor activation. When THC activates the CB1 receptors, it hinders the production of glutamate.
Why is this important? Schizophrenia starts with abnormal communication patterns between brain cell groups. Dopamine and glutamate are neurotransmitters used by brain cells to communicate. They do so via the process of activating receptors on other brain cells. Glutamate activates several receptors, including NMDA receptors. It is a process that is crucial in helping our brain cells form connections with each other.
A significant percentage of schizophrenia patients have deficient NMDA receptor activity. The brains of these individuals also have abnormally high D2 dopamine receptor activity. If you use too much THC, you could compromise the strength of the CB1 receptors. The result is an elevation in dopamine levels along with excess D2 receptor activity, and psychosis.
Does This Mean CBD and Schizophrenia Is a Risk?
Research to date suggests that the answer is ‘no.’ CBD oil for schizophrenia is useful because it potentially has antipsychotic effects, mainly because it blocks THC-induced psychosis. One of its significant benefits is that the compound is well-tolerated with far fewer side effects than antipsychotic medication. Therefore, CBD schizophrenia doesn’t carry the same side effects as THC.
Studies on CBD and Schizophrenia
A study by McGuire P., published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in March 2018, looked at CBD as an antipsychotic drug. The researchers gave one group CBD, and the other received a placebo. After six weeks of treatment, the CBD users had a lower level of positive psychotic symptoms. The team noted that CBD’s effects don’t seem to depend on the dopamine receptor antagonism.
An animal study by Osborne A.L., published in Neuropsychopharmacology in June 2017, also studied the effects of CBD on schizophrenia. The researchers pointed out that antipsychotic drugs are limited in their ability to improve cognition. They also noted that CBD has neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antipsychotic-like properties. However, they were not sure if it could improve the cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia.
The team gave the cannabinoid to a group of mice. They found that CBD injected twice daily resulted in a slew of positive effects. The mice experienced significant improvements in working memory and social interaction. Moreover, the compound didn’t affect body weight gain and food or water intake. The study authors concluded by saying that CBD has the potential for use in treating schizophrenia’s social withdrawal and cognitive deficits.
The CBD schizophrenia dosage is probably much higher than for an issue such as chronic pain. We have heard of patients using anywhere from 40mg to 1,280mg per day! But make sure you start slowly and gradually increase the dose. It is best to steer clear of THC due to the link between cannabis and schizophrenia.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Schizophrenia
There is no question that people living with the condition need help. They die at a much younger age than the average. In fact, both males and females are five times more likely to experience early mortality than the general population. An estimated 13% of people with schizophrenia commit suicide.
There is a growing trend towards using CBD for schizophrenia. It has potential antipsychotic effects and may help reduce certain symptoms. Unlike antipsychotic drugs, CBD doesn’t appear to impact weight gain or food intake. Tens of millions of people around the world continue to live with this mental illness. It has no cure, and treatment must continue for life. If you are considering CBD oil for schizophrenia, consult with a licensed medical professional first.