How Does CBD Affect Mental Illness
By Dipak Hemraj – Chief Research Officer at Leafwell
Cannabis can contain up to 150 different cannabinoids, all with different and sometimes even opposing effects. This is because the cannabis plant, just like the human body, produces cannabinoids to balance its own physiological functions. This is one of the reasons why broad-spectrum oils tend to be more tolerable and effective, as the mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes prevents any one compound from producing overwhelming effects.
Find out more about how CBD can help treat various mental health problems and its antipsychotic properties with Leafwell.
CBD’s Antipsychotic Properties
One of the ways we can see the way cannabis plants balance out their cannabinoids is by the presence of THC and CBD. These are the two most prominent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and they pretty much have the opposite effects.
- THC binds to CB1 receptors, which are found in the brain. Compounds that bind to CB1 receptors tend to have relaxing effects, and can also increase the desire for food. THC has analgesic and nausea-beating properties as well.
- CBD, meanwhile, does not bind to CB1 receptors in the same way as THC. In fact, CBD antagonizes CB1 receptors and changes the way they respond to THC, dampening its effects. For this reason, many claim that CBD does not have the same psychoactive properties as THC.
To give a definition of terms:
- An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates a biological response. In a way, it “turns on” a receptor. A compound that turns on this receptor, but has the opposite effect, is called an “inverse agonist”.
- An antagonist blocks the action of the agonist. It “turns off” the receptor.
- Cannabinoids are usually partial agonists, meaning they can bind to and activate a receptor, but not to the same efficacy as a full agonist.
Why Do Studies Claim CBD is Antipsychotic?
Before we answer this question, it is important to understand that the statement “ cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive” is not true. CBD has physiological effects, and binds to serotonin receptors and “talks” to opioid receptors.
CBD antagonizes CB1 receptors, so does not have its psychoactivity, but is still having a physiological effect. Some people can feel relaxed using CBD, but also more energetic and “wiry” as well.
This is important to note, as CBD’s effects on a wide variety of receptors is one reason why it could be antipsychotic. Many antipsychotic drugs (e.g. aripiprazole) act as a partial agonist of dopamine receptors, and so does CBD when used in high doses. Some reports suggest that 800 to 1000 mg of CBD could alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Conditions CBD Could Help With
- For those with Alzheimer’s (or indeed most neurological conditions), their brains are inflamed and on fire. This is caused by the buildup of two proteins: amyloid beta and tau. CBD can calm down this inflammation.
- CBD can help prevent beta-amyloid-induced toxicity.
- CBD (and THC as well) can help break down tau proteins.
CBD and Schizophrenia
- Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors, and thus does not induce psychotic episodes in those with schizophrenia. In fact, CBD antagonizes CB1 receptors, meaning it does the opposite, and reduces the psychoactivity of THC.
- CBD is a partial agonist of dopamine receptors, giving it similar properties to other antipsychotic medications. Those with schizophrenia have overactive dopamine receptors, and dopamine agonists and partial agonists can interfere with dopamine at the receptor site.
- Those with bipolar disorder can sometimes have psychotic symptoms, which are most prominent around manic phases. This can look like schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia share many of the same symptoms. CBD works for bipolar disorder in much the same way as it works for schizophrenia: by being a partial agonist of dopamine receptors and interfering with dopamine and the way it binds to receptors.
- Dopamine receptor antagonists that prevent the release of dopamine are also used for the treatment of bipolar disorder, as well as schizophrenia,Parkinson’s and autism-related agitation.
One example is risperidone (Risperdal). However, use of risperidone is associated with weight gain, movement problems, sleepiness, dizziness, trouble seeing and constipation. Risperidone can also increase the risk of suicide and raise blood-sugar levels.
- Risperidone is also not necessarily useful for those with psychosis related to dementia. CBD, on the other hand, could be very useful for psychosis related to dementia.
- CBD works together with a number of terpenes that can beat anxiety and stress, including linalool, pinene, beta-caryophyllene and borneol.
- CBD can improve regional cerebral blood flow, meaning that some parts of the brain receive more oxygen, thereby reducing stress and anxiety. This could be a reason why CBD is useful for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- A little THC can be useful, but too much THC can cause anxiety.
- CBD is a partial agonist of the serotonin receptor, 5-HT1A. This gives CBD its antidepressant-like effects.
- As with anxiety, CBD combines with terpenes like pinene, limonene and linalool to beat stress related to depression.
- Anxiety and depression are often comorbid, so CBD could be useful for both conditions.
CBD vs. THC for Mental Health
THC gets unfairly demonized, and is often considered by many to be the “recreational” part of the cannabis plant. This is not the case, and small amounts of THC can be very useful for problems like chronic pain, insomnia and nausea.
Moreover, THC – even a small amount – combines with CBD and enhances its anti-inflammatory properties. This can make a combination of THC and CBD very useful for conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and anxiety.
However, when it comes to conditions where psychosis is a problem, THC is not so useful, and could make things worse. In such instances, THC may be best avoided, and isolated CBD can be far more useful.
If you would like to know more about how cannabis works, check out the Leafwell website.
Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.
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"We encourage you to discuss CBD with your physician or healthcare practitioner if you have any specific health related questions or concerns. There are also many independent research studies about CBD available on the internet."
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease.