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Cannabis as Medicine? Overview

It is utterly mind-blowing that people have no idea that Cannabis has been part of the medical prescription landscape for over 20 years. That’s right T. G. A (Therapeutic Goods Administration) trialled and approved cannabis based medicines have been available as an option to alleviate, if only in small ways, some of the symptoms of a couple of diseases or help with recovery from treatment. However, the claims of this plant being a ‘miracle cure’ for just about everything, have existed for of 100 years… yet in no credible and advanced research has any of the properties of the Cannabis plant ‘cured’ anything, ever!

There is no argument that some components of this incredibly complex plant can have some therapeutic benefit, be it ever so small, but deriving such from the plant with out co-opting some of the more detrimental components has proven incredibly difficult. On top of that, the evidence emerging from latest science, sees that some of these therapies, do more harm than good, with the temporary alleviating of a symptom on one hand, and incurring along term genetic harm on the other!

Again if facts and evidence matter to your best-practice health care, then this is the space for you. Make informed decisions based on science, and not quackery!

New research, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, shows that a dose of the cannabis extract cannabidiol improves brain function in people living with psychosis.

A cannabis extract known as cannabidiol could be the 'ideal treatment' for psychosis.

The new study was conducted by scientists at King's College London (KCL) in the United Kingdom.

It was spearheaded by Sagnik Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., from KCL's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.

Cannabidiol has already been proven to have antipsychotic effects. For instance, a 6-week clinical trial has shown that it relieves psychotic symptoms when taken in conjunction with antipsychotic medication. Likewise, a 4-week trial found that the compound is just as effective as traditional antipsychotics.

However, the neurological mechanisms responsible for this effect were unknown — until now. The new research sheds light, bringing us closer to a potential cannabidiol-based treatment for psychosis.

Studying cannabidiol's effects on the brain

Bhattacharyya and his colleagues examined the effects of cannabidiol on 33 study participants at "clinical high risk" of psychosis, who, although not diagnosed with the condition yet, had experienced psychotic episodes.

Of these, 16 participants took a single oral dose of 600 milligrams of cannabidiol, while 17 participants took a placebo.

Using functional MRI, the researchers scanned the participants' brains as they took a memory test. The memory tasks are known to activate three brain areas typically hyperactive in psychosis: the striatum, the medial temporal cortex, and the midbrain.

Cannabidiol normalizes brain activity

In the psychosis group, the brain activity of people who took cannabidiol was less intense than that of those who received placebo. The compound brought down the activity in these brain areas to near-normal levels.

Specifically, in each of the three brain regions, "the level of activation following administration of cannabidiol [...] was intermediate between the response in healthy control individuals who did not receive any drug and in patients at clinical high risk receiving placebo."

"These results," conclude the authors, "suggest that cannabidiol may normalize dysfunction in these brain regions, which are critically implicated in psychosis, and this may underlie its therapeutic effects in psychosis."

To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to show the effect that cannabidiol has on the brain and the neurological mechanisms by which it could help relieve psychotic symptoms.

Cannabidiol may be the 'ideal treatment'

Bhattacharyya comments on these findings, saying, "Our results have started unraveling the brain mechanisms of a new drug that works in a completely different way to traditional antipsychotics."

In the near future, he and his team plan to launch a large multicenter clinical trial of cannabidiol for treating psychosis in young people who are at risk.

"There is an urgent need for a safe treatment for young people at risk of psychosis," Bhattacharyya explains.

"One of the main advantages of cannabidiol is that it is safe and seems to be very well tolerated, making it in some ways an ideal treatment. If successful, this trial will provide definitive proof of cannabidiol's role as an antipsychotic treatment and pave the way for use in the clinic."

Sagnik Bhattacharyya

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