Medical Research

Does Cannabis Help with Psychosis? Evidence From a Study

Written by Lydia Kariuki

On average, one in every 200 Americans have a form of schizophrenia. Those suffering from this mental disorder may experience frequent episodes accompanied by predominant symptoms that include delusions, hallucinations, impaired thought processes, lack of emotional responsiveness, and even motor impairment (catatonia). These symptoms may vary from mild to debilitating.

While the cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, genetic, physical, and psychological factors have been cited as possible etiologies. Stressful life events can act as triggers for schizophrenic episodes.

“Schizophrenics” exhibiting psychosis are often disdained by society for behaving “abnormally.” Without proper treatment many are not able to lead productive lives or build meaningful relationships.


CBD Versus Amisulpride for Psychosis

Cannabidiol, (CBD) is perhaps the most studied cannabinoid. The full extent of the therapeutic potential of CBD is yet to be discovered; researchers are now looking at the possible benefits of utilizing CBD to treat psychosis in schizophrenia.

Amisulpride is a second generation antipsychotic that is commonly used to manage psychotic episodes. In 2012, a group of researchers from the University of Cologne in Germany carried out a study to compare the effectiveness and safety profile of Amisulpride and CBD in the treatment of psychosis [1]

The study included 39 participants suffering from schizophrenia who had been hospitalized for a psychotic episode. Half the participants received Amisulpride while the other half received CBD. In four weeks both groups showed significant improvement in psychotic symptoms with no visible difference between the two groups suggesting that “CBD is as effective at improving psychotic symptoms as the standard antipsychotic Amisulpride.” In addition, the CBD group experienced fewer side effects.


Increased Levels of Anandamide in Psychotic Patients

Anandamide (AKA the bliss molecule) is an endogenous cannabinoid that causes “happiness” by binding to the same receptors as THC in the brain. The researchers discovered something paradoxical and intriguing about anandamide and psychosis. Schizophrenia patients usually have increased levels of circulating anandamide. One might wonder how this is possible. The researchers discovered that while higher levels of anandamide do not trigger psychosis, the body responds to psychosis by triggering the release of anandamide.


So how is CBD Able to Treat Psychosis?

It appears that CBD raises the levels of circulating anandamide in the brain when offered to psychotic patients. [2] In this way, it eases the symptoms of psychosis. Unlike Amisulpride, CBD has a wide safety margin and is well tolerated by most people. Future studies in this area will facilitate CBD’s acceptance as a mainstream treatment modality for psychosis in schizophrenia.


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1- Leweke, F. M., Piomelli, D., Pahlisch, F., Muhl, D., Gerth, C. W., Hoyer, C., Klosterkötter, J., Hellmich, M., & Koethe, D. (2012). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational psychiatry, 2(3), e94.


2- Giuffrida, A., Leweke, F. M., Gerth, C. W., Schreiber, D., Koethe, D., Faulhaber, J., Klosterkötter, J., & Piomelli, D. (2004). Cerebrospinal anandamide levels are elevated in acute schizophrenia and are inversely correlated with psychotic symptoms. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 29(11), 2108–2114.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki