The prevalence of mental illnesses is an increasing problem worldwide. In the European Union alone, and according to reports from the World Health Organization, 83 million people aged under 65 are affected by a mental illness of some kind.
Also, the fact remains that the existing treatments for mental illnesses are far from perfect. Ranging from antidepressants to mood stabilizers, some of these drugs often have severe side effects, are extremely addictive, or simply don’t work in some cases. Nonetheless, more advances are being made every day in the field of mental health science, especially in the studies regarding the use of cannabidiol (CBD).
Among the many beneficial effects usually attributed to the use of CBD, the prevention or treatment of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis, are among the most studied. In fact, these studies are getting more accurate and reliable each time, some even having passed from animal testing to human trials.
For example, a recent clinical trial performed in human patients reported that the use of a single oral dose of CBD can stabilize certain areas of the brain that are affected in patients at clinical high risk of psychosis, thus verifying the antipsychotic effects of CBD.
Psychosis is one of the main symptoms displayed in schizophrenic patients, which comprise more than 23 million people worldwide. These patients often present a complex combination of symptoms like delusions, changes in behaviour or ways of thinking, social withdrawal, changes in sleeping patterns, loss of interest in life, or hallucinations. It’s not the most common mental illness, but its treatment is of severe importance, since schizophrenic patients are 2-3 times more likely to die early, and are usually subjected to social stigma, discrimination, and even violation of human rights.
Treating schizophrenia usually requires the prolonged use of antipsychotics and psychosocial therapies. Since they basically block dopamine’s action in the brain, antipsychotics have severe reported neurological side effects, including twitches, spasms, drowsiness, lack of sex drive, blurred vision, constipation and weight gain, among others. Besides, there’s the risk of developing a certain type of movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia, which may be irreversible.
So, researchers are set on finding other viable options. Particularly for schizophrenia, CBD has already proven to be a strong candidate for an effective treatment. Besides being able to prevent or reduce psychotic events in humans, CBD is also effective in reducing social and cognitive deficits seen in schizophrenia rodent models, improving sleep patterns in both adults and children, as well reducing depressive tendencies, among other effects.
Scientists believe CBD may very well be the start of a new type of treatment for mental illness, reducing known side effects of the current treatments, as well improving the physical, mental, and social well-being of patients.