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August 31, 2018

A marijuana compound may counteract psychosis

Study offers hope for new medical treatment

A non-intoxicating compound in marijuana may counteract psychosis, a finding that eventually may lead to new medical treatments.

A brain imaging study found that a single dose of Cannabidiol – a component used in some medical marijuana – may reduce psychosis by resetting activity in three brain areas.

Psychosis occurs when people lose contact with reality through delusions and hallucinations, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is symptomatic of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Sleep deprivation, drug abuse and other medications also can cause it.

Researchers at King's College in London examined 33 people who were experiencing psychotic symptoms. Half of them received an oral medication containing CBD while the other half received a placebo. A control group of healthy adults also was assembled.

All three groups completed a memory task while researchers examined their brains with an fMRI scanner.

The groups that received the CBD medication and placebo each showed abnormal brain activity as compared to the control group. But researchers found that the group taking CBD had less severe abnormalities than those taking the placebo.

That left researchers hopeful that CBD could offer a new treatment for psychosis. Current treatment options include antipsychotic medications and psychotherapy.

Still, the study had several limitations. It included a small sample size and will need to be replicated on a larger scale. It also remains unclear whether the effects of CBD will continue with longer doses.

The study was published Wednesday in "JAMA Psychiatry."

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