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Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the ingredients in the cannabis plant that contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There is emerging research that CBD may reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, but a person should not use the compound as an alternative to medical treatment.
Emerging research suggests that it may reduce some symptoms of schizophrenia. However, it is not a substitute for medical treatment, and smoking cannabis with a high potency of THC may worsen schizophrenia symptoms or increase the risk of psychosis.
Cannabidiol is one of the ingredients in cannabis. CBD oil contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that causes euphoria, or a “high.”
While the research on CBD for schizophrenia shows promise, many studies are very small or low quality. Additionally, no research has shown that CBD can cure schizophrenia or that it is a better treatment method than antipsychotics.
It is important to treat schizophrenia with the remedies a doctor recommends, such as antipsychotics, to prevent the condition from worsening — and to improve long-term outcomes. If a person wishes to try supplementing their treatment with CBD, it is important to first discuss this with a doctor.
This article discusses the research behind CBD oil and schizophrenia, the potential benefits and risks of using this compound, and other alternative treatments.
Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.
Emerging evidence suggests that CBD products may help schizophrenia. However, the studies are generally low quality and inconsistent in terms of dosing and study design.
Additionally, people should not use CBD products without first contacting a healthcare professional. A person should not use CBD as a substitute for medical treatment.
Importantly, many studies of CBD for schizophrenia do not use CBD oil. Because CBD oil is a supplement, dosing and strength vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. This means a person might get a different result each time they use it.
A 2022 review emphasizes that CBD has low oral bioavailability. This means that consuming CBD oil may be less effective than other forms of this compound.
A 2021 review highlights the potential benefits of CBD in early-stage schizophrenia. The researchers state that CBD may change the levels of various brain chemicals that have an association with psychosis. For example, CBD may raise anandamide levels in the brain, which may reduce symptoms of psychosis.
Another recent systematic review found slight evidence that CBD might reduce schizophrenia symptoms at high doses. The review notes that a 4-week trial of 800 milligrams (mg) of CBD led to similar results to amisulpride, an antipsychotic medication, in relieving psychosis and improving cognition.
In two 6-week trials of people on antipsychotic drugs who also took CBD, the compound performed no better than a placebo did at 600 mg per day. At 1,000 mg, it reduced symptoms of schizophrenia. However, that sample did not exclude people who used cannabis recreationally or those who had a cannabis addiction.
However, research also suggests that CBD may not have any benefits for schizophrenia. For example, in a 2018 study, researchers gave either 600 milligrams per day of CBD or a placebo to a group of 36 people with schizophrenia for 6 weeks.
The placebo group showed more improvement than the CBD group, and those who took CBD developed more symptoms of sedation.
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Research on the benefits of using CBD for schizophrenia is still ongoing. However, there is some evidence that CBD may have potential benefits when managing this condition.
CBD may be effective during the early stages of psychosis, as it has anti-psychotic effects. The compound affects the brain chemistry with minimal side effects, such as diarrhea.
Additionally, there is some evidence that CBD does not interact with antipsychotic medication. People who take CBD alongside antipsychotic medication are unlikely to experience any additional worsening of mood, suicidal thoughts, or changes in movement.
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A risk specific to those with schizophrenia is that a person might replace standard treatments, such as antipsychotic drugs, with CBD.
Research suggests that treating schizophrenia early may improve long-term outcomes, such as preventing the condition from progressively worsening. People who delay treatment in favor of CBD may find that schizophrenia symptoms become less manageable.
Other, more general, risks of using CBD may include:
While CBD may ease symptoms of schizophrenia, THC, another ingredient in cannabis, may exacerbate them. For example, a 2019 study found that users of high-potency cannabis had a more than fourfold increase in the risk of developing psychosis.
However, it is important to note that scientists have not found that THC or cannabis cause psychosis. There are other factors that may play a part.
Scientists have not proven that any alternative schizophrenia treatments work. It is important to remember that any alternative remedies, including CBD, are not a suitable substitute for medical care.
However, a holistic approach that incorporates lifestyle support, education, and medication may help improve schizophrenia symptoms. Healthcare professionals may recommend the following in addition to antipsychotic drugs:
Recent research suggests that CBD may have some potential benefits for managing schizophrenia symptoms. However, the evidence is not conclusive, and more research is necessary.
A person who is interested in trying alternative treatments, such as CBD, should contact a doctor to discuss the potential benefits and risks. People should not use any alternative remedies as a substitute for medical care.
Last medically reviewed on July 28, 2022