A new preliminary clinical trial showed promising results that Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in marijuana, can treat schizophrenia as effectively as traditional antipsychotic and prescribed medications, with far fewer side effects.
Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany treated 19 of 39 patient subjects who were hospitalized for a psychotic episode with amisulpride, and the rest with CBD, the compound found in marijuana. Neither party, the researchers nor the patients, knew who was getting what treatment. After 14 weeks, both groups showed significant improvement in their symptoms, and furthermore, there was no discernible difference between those receiving the pharmaceutical and those receiving CBD.
Daniel Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, at Irvine, couldn't contain his excitement. "The results were amazing!" he told TIME Magazine. "Not only was CBD as effective as standard antipsychotics, but it was also essentially free of the typical side effects seen with antipsychotic drugs."
In the University of Cologne study, which can be found here, many of the typical side effects, including weight gain and movement issues, were found in patients using amisulpride, but not in the patients using CBD. Chair of psychiatry at Yale, Dr. John Krystal, claimed that the CBD helped mostly with schizophrenia's "negative symptoms," such as social withdrawal and lack of motivation, which are characteristically difficult to treat.
In perhaps what can be considered a bit of serendipity, another recent study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Inje University in South Korea showed "a lower mortality risk-adjusted variable in cannabis users compared to cannabis non-users despite subjects having similar symptoms and anti-psychotic treatments."
In plain English, the cannabis users had less risk of death.
"To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to examine the risk of mortality with cannabis and alcohol in people with PD (psychiatric disorders)," the researchers concluded. "This interesting finding of decreased mortality risk in cannabis users is a novel finding and one that will need replication in larger epidemiological studies."
The complete study, entitled "Alcohol and cannabis use and mortality in people with schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders," is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.