Learn how CBD could help with the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Find research, benefits, and shopping tips for this condition. Clinical research shows CBD is as effective as antipsychotic meds with fewer side effects.
Schizophrenia & CBD Oil: Overview of Research, Benefits, & Best Products
Schizophrenia is a commonly misunderstood disorder that affects nearly 3.5 million Americans. The symptoms are wide-ranging but CBD oil shows potential for offering significant relief. These symptoms can vary between individuals but are broken down into three categories: positive , negative and cognitive .
- Positive symptoms refer to symptoms that would not be present in an individual who did not have schizophrenia.
- Negative symptoms include those which are disruptive to the individual, such as dulled emotions, avoidance of social interactions and self-isolation.
- Cognitive symptoms include struggling to comprehend information, focus or make decisions.
While modern medicine has found ways to treat many of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as the delusions and hallucinations which are markers of the disease, it has not proved effective at treating negative or cognitive symptoms.
In addition, antipsychotic medications come with their own host of additional side effects, which can include drowsiness and dizziness as well as physical impairments like muscle spasms and tremors.
It’s no surprise that many people suffering from schizophrenia are looking to CBD oil as a way to supplement their existing mental health treatment plan.
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Schizophrenia
In no way will using CBD oil for schizophrenia cure the condition. But, CBD oil could prove to be a beneficial tool in mitigating some of the symptoms caused by the disease and ease some of the side effects of the medications used to control psychosis.
The Cannabis sativa plant is often negatively linked with schizophrenia, with some studies suggesting a causation effect between its use and the development of schizophrenia.
However, not only is there no proof of direct causation, but this belief system also overlooks the many potential benefits of using pure cannabinoid extracts from the cannabis plant, like cannabidiol (CBD) , in the treatment of schizophrenia. It is more likely that any link between schizophrenia and cannabis lies with the THC component.
Cannabis and hemp plants contain hundreds of cannabinoids that work similarly to the endocannabinoids produced by the body and impact the endocannabinoid system . Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a potent cannabinoid, that provides many potential positive benefits without producing cognitive impairment or adding significant negative side effects of its own.
If you’re currently taking medication for schizophrenia and are considering adding CBD oil to the mix, it is crucial that you speak to your doctor first . CBD oil has the potential to interact with antipsychotic medications, and you want to make sure you’re not putting your mental health further at risk. Here’s a chart breaking down some of the more common schizophrenia medications, their potential side effects, and how they could interact with CBD oil.
|Antipsychotic Drugs For Schizophrenia||Some Potential Side Effects of Schizophrenia Medication||Potential Adverse Effects of combining Medication w/ CBD Oil||Potential Benefits of Using CBD Oil|
|Haloperidol||Irregular heartbeat; tardive dyskinesia (involuntary movement); nausea; vomiting; headache; dizziness; drowsiness; insomnia; anxiety; mood changes; skin rash; itching; blurred vision.||Combining Haloperidol with CBD oil can increase side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because haloperidol is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help reduce nausea; migraines; anxiety; insomnia.|
|Chlorpromazine||Dizziness; drowsiness; anxiety; insomnia; weight gain; swelling in hands and feet; blurred vision; dry mouth.||Combining Chlorpromazine with CBD oil can increase side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because chlorpromazine is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help reduce anxiety; insomnia; inflammation.|
|Aripiprazole (Abilify)||Weight gain; blurred vision; dizziness; drowsiness; headache; insomnia; anxiety; drooling.||Combining Aripiprazole with CBD oil can increase side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because Aripiprazole is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic.Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help reduce pain; migraines; insomnia; anxiety.|
|Asenapine (Saphris)||Drowsiness; dizziness; numbness or tingling in mouth; constipation; insomnia; stomach upset; anxiety; dry mouth.||Combining Asenapine with CBD oil can increase side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because asenapine is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic.Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help reduce insomnia and anxiety.|
|Brexpiprazole (Rexulti)||Drowsiness; dizziness; weight gain; agitation; increased appetite; fatigue; constipation; restlessness; distress.||Combining Brexpiprazole with CBD oil can increase side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because brexpiprazole is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help with anxiety and stress.|
|Lurasidone (Latuda)||Drowsiness; dizziness; nausea; weight gain; insomnia; agitation; inability to stay still.||Combining Lurasidone with CBD oil can increase side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because lurasidone is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help reduce nausea and symptoms of movement disorders.|
|Olanzapine (Zyprexa)||Drowsiness; dizziness; weight gain; headache; shaking or tremors; dry mouth; impaired speech or memory; blurred vision.||Combining Olanzapine with CBD oil can increase the side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because olanzapine is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help with pain and movement disorders.|
|Quetiapine (Seroquel)||Insomnia; constipation; drowsiness; dizziness; dry mouth; weakness; headache; decrease in blood pressure upon standing.||Combining Quetiapine with CBD oil can increase the side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because quetiapine is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help reduce insomnia; pain; migraines.|
|Risperidone (Risperdal)||Headache; dizziness; drowsiness; tremors and twitching; agitation; anxiety; weight gain; dry mouth.||Combining Risperidone with CBD oil can increase the side effects of dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because risperidone is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help with pain; inflammation; anxiety; movement disorders.|
|Ziprasidone (Geodon)||Dizziness; drowsiness; nausea; diarrhea; constipation; tremors; rash; new or worsening cough.||Combining Ziprasidone with CBD oil can increase the side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; confusion. Because ziprasidone is metabolised partially via the cytochrome P450 pathway; concurrent use with CBD can be problematic. Speak to your doctor before combining.||CBD oil has been shown to help with nausea and movement disorders.|
While using CBD oil in combination with antipsychotic medications may increase the risk for drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion, it may also relieve medication side effects while easing some of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Again, the only way to safely weigh the risks against the benefits is by speaking with your doctor beforehand.
Effectiveness of CBD Oil for Schizophrenia
While the research is far from complete or conclusive, CBD oil has a range of positive implications in the treatment of schizophrenia symptoms.
CBD Oil for the Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
A comprehensive review by researchers at the University of Wollongong, Australia, analyzed 27 previously conducted studies into the effects of cannabidiol on cognitive function, specifically looking at the potential benefits to schizophrenia patients.
CBD has been found to improve cognitive function in a number of preclinical models of cognitive impairment, including models of neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. However, due to a lack of clinical trials on humans, the researchers acknowledge it’s too early to definitely say if CBD oil could be a treatment for schizophrenia. But, the preclinical literature on the subject led the researchers to conclude, “given the ability of CBD to restore cognition in multiple studies of impairment, further investigation into its efficacy in schizophrenia is warranted.”
CBD Oil for Treating Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Following the findings of the previously mentioned review, researchers conducted a new study into the effects of CBD on rats who had been infected with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, a compound that simulates the effects of schizophrenia.
For three weeks, some of these rats were given a daily dose of CBD, while the control group was not. A number of clinical tests were then conducted to track the rats’ cognition and social interaction.
It was found that CBD restored recognition, working memory, and social behaviors to normal levels. These findings suggest that CBD may be successful in treating the symptoms that are resistant to currently available schizophrenia medications (though take this lightly, as only one rat study provides this evidence). And perhaps most interesting, CBD oil treatments did not impact food intake or body weight like many prescribed antipsychotic medications do.
CBD Oil for the Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medications
The medications used to treat schizophrenia can lead to a wide range of unpleasant side effects. As can be seen in the table above, some of the most common side effects of these medications is nausea, anxiety, headache, and muscle spasms or tremors. CBD oil has been shown to be a potentially effective treatment for all of these symptoms. But the issue here is that taking CBD concurrently with these medications can in itself increase the side effects of schizophrenia because of the cytochrome p450 interaction. Again, consult your doctor and proceed with caution.
CBD Oil for Nausea
CBD reduces the experience of nausea and associated symptoms through its effects on CB1 receptors in the brain, which are linked to the nausea response. Cannabinoids like CBD inhibit the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a compound known to cause nausea when it is present in high amounts. CBD may also reduce nausea through its interaction with serotonin receptor 5-HT1a. It’s believed cannabidiol indirectly activates this receptor, which reduces the amount of serotonin produced and present in the body and ultimately results in an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting response.
CBD Oil for Muscle Spasms or Tremors
Studies on the potential treatment of spastic conditions through CBD oil use have produced promising results. For example, numerous published studies have indicated that CBD oil can aid in controlling the muscle spasms and tremors associated with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Studies have found that dopamine is responsible for signaling the start of movement and a drop in dopamine can contribute to a lack of muscle control. CBD is able to increase the amount of dopamine available by acting as an inverse agonist of the G-coupled protein receptor known as GPR6. More dopamine in the brain allows for more muscle control, and ultimately a reduction in tremors. While these studies were conducted on the use of CBD oil for Parkinson’s disease, it stands to reason that the same principles could apply to the tremors and muscle spasms that can result from schizophrenia medications.
CBD Oil for Anxiety
CBD oil is well known for its ability to reduce anxiety. In a small double-blind study performed on human subjects, participants reported lower levels of anxiety after being administered CBD oil. Brain scans performed by the researchers backed up these claims by showing increased cerebral blood flow which is consistent with decreased anxiety. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has weighed in, saying that CBD oil can reduce “behavioral and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety.”
CBD Oil for Pain
Another area in which CBD oil has been found to be effective is in reducing pain. This can be significant given that headaches are a common side effect of antipsychotic medications. Located in the central nervous system, glycine receptors are inhibitory receptors that play a role in the perception of pain. Cannabinoids like CBD have been shown to potentiate these receptors. In other words, CBD increases the effects of these receptors and reduces the experience of pain.
How to Take CBD Oil for Schizophrenia
Whether or not to supplement your existing schizophrenia treatment with CBD oil is a very personal decision, and one that should not be made without first consulting a doctor.
CBD has been known to interact with some medications including certain antibiotics and antidepressants. And because CBD oil may increase the likelihood of some of the side effects of antipsychotic medications, it is important to have medical supervision.
With a range of CBD oil products to choose from, knowing where to start may be one of the biggest hurdles. The brand, concentration, and method of use will largely come down to your own personal preference, which can involve some trial and error before you find the right fit.
For example, you may choose to start with CBD oil drops to figure out your optimal dosage, but then switch to capsules because of the ease of use and consistent dosing. Or, if you’re looking for a delivery method to address symptoms as they surface, CBD vape oil or CBD flower may do the trick.
There is no shortage of options available, so if the first product isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to experiment a little to find something more suitable. Sometimes a combination of products ends up being ideal. A capsule or edible can offer a consistent dose while a CBD oil tincture or vape oil can provide fast relief for periods of pain, spasticity, or high anxiety.
Again, do not start using CBD oil without first speaking to a doctor. Together you can decide on the best CBD oil for you.
For more information on the different CBD oil delivery formats and how to use them, check out our beginner’s guide for first-time CBD users.
CBD Oil Dosage for Schizophrenia
The severity and symptoms of schizophrenia will vary between individuals. As such, it is impossible to give a single universal dosage of CBD oil that will work for all. It is always best to follow the recommended serving size on the information sheet included with your CBD oil product, but as a very general guide, we at CBD Oil Review have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with a standard serving suggestion:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25 mg of CBD, taken twice daily
If you are not getting results from this amount, we recommend increasing the dose by 25 mg every 3 to 4 weeks until you find relief.
For more information on dosages and some useful tips for getting it right, check out our guide here or speak to a naturopathic doctor, who will be able to provide you with CBD recommendations that are specific to your schizophrenia symptoms.
The Best CBD Oils for Schizophrenia
If you’re ready to try CBD oil to help with schizophrenia, it is important to buy a quality product.
There is no single CBD product or brand that is best for schizophrenia, but there are some ways you can narrow down your selections to ensure that you get the best CBD oil for your money and needs.
- Read the label. It is always important to know and understand what is in your CBD oil. Federal guidelines say that in order to be legal, CBD oil must contain 0.3% or less THC. If you live in a state with legal access to recreational and medicinal cannabis, it may be possible to buy a product that contains higher levels of THC. Be sure that you are making a purchase that not only fits within your state’s cannabis laws but one that also suits your needs. A high THC content is not always desirable, and could potentially exacerbate the hallucinatory symptoms of schizophrenia .
- Look at the Certificate of Analysis. Reputable brands will have their extracts lab tested and post the results in a Certificate of Analysis (COA). Reading the COA will allow you to verify both the THC and CBD concentrations, as well as check for any harmful chemicals that could be in the final product. Because the CBD oil industry is currently unregulated, checking the Certificate of Analysis is essential if you wish to avoid dishonest brands.
- Check the ingredients. Look for a product that has been sourced from organically grown hemp to eliminate the risk of ingesting pesticides and herbicides. Also, most CBD oils do not require a large number of ingredients. At the very least, they will include CBD and a carrier liquid like MCT oil or hemp seed oil. Some products will include terpenes, fatty acids, and flavonoids from the whole plant while others will include natural flavor additives like cinnamon, orange, or peppermint essential oils. Avoid products that contain artificial flavors and additives.
While the research is still very early, CBD oil is showing great potential for the treatment of a wide range of symptoms associated with schizophrenia. As the laws change and research expands, a clearer picture of its efficacy will form. Until then, if you are considering using CBD oil for schizophrenia, be sure to talk to your doctor.
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy:
- Ashleigh L Osborne et al. (2016) A systematic review of the effect of cannabidiol on cognitive function: Relevance to schizophrenia – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27884751/
- Ashleigh L Osborne et al. (2017) Improved Social Interaction, Recognition and Working Memory with Cannabidiol Treatment in a Prenatal Infection (poly I:C) Rat Model – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28230072/
- Linda A Parker et al. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165951/
- EM Rock et al. Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, attenuates vomiting and nausea-like behaviour via indirect agonism of 5-HT1A somatodendritic autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3423241/
- Gurudas Khilnani et al. Inverse agonism and its therapeutic significance – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195115/
- Alyssa S Laun et al. (2017) GPR3 and GPR6, novel molecular targets for cannabidiol – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28571738/
- Nora D. Volkow (2015) The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol – National Institute on Drug Abuse https://archives.drugabuse.gov/testimonies/2015/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol
- Wei Xiong et al. Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371734/
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CBD for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. It can cause psychotic episodes, and treatment is usually lifelong and involves antipsychotic medications with toxic side effects.
In 2012, researchers published a study in Translational Psychiatry showing that a CBD isolate can treat schizophrenia as effectively as antipsychotic pharmaceuticals — and with far fewer side effects. 1
In this study, researchers led by Markus Leweke, MD , of the University of Cologne in Germany recruited 39 people with schizophrenia who were hospitalized for a psychotic episode. Nineteen of the study participants received an antipsychotic medication called amisulpride, while the other 20 were given CBD . After four weeks, both groups significantly improved. There was no difference in psychiatric symptoms between those getting CBD or amisulpride. But those taking CBD had fewer undesirable side effects, such as weight gain and movement disorders, compared to those taking amisulpride. The authors concluded, “These results suggest that cannabidiol is as effective at improving psychotic symptoms as the standard antipsychotic amisulpride.”
CBD appears to provide antipsychotic relief by raising the levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound that acts on the same brain receptors as THC . Curiously, in an earlier study, Daniele Piomelli, director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California in Irvine, discovered that people with schizophrenia had anandamide levels that were on average twice as high as mentally healthy people without the disorder. 2 Some scientists speculated that perhaps people with schizophrenia were essentially too high on elevated levels of their own endocannabinoids! But in reality, it seems that the brain actually increases anandamide levels to buffer stress and ease the symptoms of psychosis. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the higher the anandamide levels are in people with schizophrenia, the less severe their symptoms.
Atypical brain scans
More recently, in 2020, researchers from Kings College in London used fMRI scans to monitor the brain activity of 13 people with psychosis while they performed a memory test after taking CBD or a placebo and compared it to 16 people without psychosis performing the same test. Those taking placebo had different brain activity in the prefrontal and mediotemporal brain areas associated with memory than the people without psychosis. When participants who had psychosis took one dose of CBD , their brain activity becomes more like their counterparts without the disease.
CBD influences areas of the brain that have been shown to have unusual activity in people with psychosis.
“Our study provides important insight into which areas of the brain CBD targets. It is the first time research has scanned the brains of people with a diagnosis of psychosis who have taken CBD and, although the sample is small, the results are compelling in that they demonstrate that CBD influences those very areas of the brain that have been shown to have unusual activity in people with psychosis,” said the senior author on the study, Sagnik Bhattacharyya, MD , PhD. 3
Importantly, in terms of cannabis and safety, one of the biggest health concerns and stigmas about cannabis use has been the idea that it can cause psychosis in vulnerable individuals. This has never been proven. It’s worth noting that a 2012 meta-analysis published in Schizophrenia Bulletin showed that people diagnosed with schizophrenia who use cannabis function better cognitively than people with schizophrenia who do not use cannabis. 4
An excerpt from The Essential Guide to CBD by the editors of Reader’s Digest & Project CBD .
Copyright, Project CBD . May not be reprinted without permission.