CBD and Schizophrenia: 'Natural component' of marijuana shows promise

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http://www.fanpop.com/ on July 3, 2013.

Millions of people with schizophrenia-and their families-wish for the same thing every day: symptom relief without major side effects like weight gain or even movement problems or disorders. it's incredibly frustrating when a new treatment comes along that shows great promise, but isn't generally available.
But there is new hope with cannabidiol (CBD), one of 400 chemical components of marijuana. CBD shone brightly in a German study reported in March in the journal Translational Psychiatry. This natural chemical was as effective in tempering both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia as a standard antipsychotic medication, reports study co-author Daniele Piomelli, PhD, PharmD and professor of pharmacology at the University of California-Irvine.

Pleasantly surprising finding

Cannabidiol inhibits or prevents degradation of another chemical called anandamide, so levels of the latter may increase in the body. Piomelli and his german colleague and friend, Markus Leweke, MD, of the University of Cologne, have studied the role of anandamide in schizophrenia for 12 years.
Anandamide regulates our memory, appetite, mood, and pain, explains Piomelli. The two researchers found that a broad base of study subjects whose cerebrospinal fluid-the cushioning fluid around the brain and spinal cord that protects both from injury-revealed higher levels of anandamide also exhibited lowered levels of schizophrenia symptoms.
"it was just the opposite of what we expected," said Piomelli. "Anandamide was actually protective."
He can foresee a new generation of antipsychotic medications that work this way, but not right away. From a business standpoint, he says, CBD is unattractive to pharmaceutical companies because it's a natural compound that can't be patented and is expensive to produce; therefore, he's looking toward developing a synthetic version. And, from a political standpoint, CBD is derived from cannabis, which can incite heated arguments in most any setting.
"maybe philanthropic foundations might become interested in pursuing development," said Piomelli, who knows the prospects are intriguing.
"There have been several previous studies to suggest that CBD has anti anxiety, cognitive enhancing and antipsychotic effects, but this is a strong clinical assessment of this action of CBD in a controlled clinical trial," noted Tony P. George, MD, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto and clinical director of the schizophrenia program for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

CBD versus THC

Marijuana also contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). it's a very long, complex name for a chemical that can deliver a happy "high" but may result in addiction. George strongly believes that THC is bad for adolescents, and for psychiatric patients, especially those with psychosis. "Much of what determines this is based on genetic factors that seem to predispose to psychosis in some people but not others," he said.
CBD treatment is already available in Germany, said Piomelli, "but that (option) is not something everyone can do."
Because of that, Piomelli and others like him continue down their paths to deliver more than just hope-without limitations.

SZ Magazine by Stephanie Stephens (2012)