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What we know about cannabis and the treatment of psychosis

With more than 20% of the population in the US currently suffering from some form of anxiety, and the relative ineffectiveness of most medications to treat its causes rather than just some of the symptoms, more and more Americans are looking for alternate treatments.

The recent relaxing of the laws in Canada, the US and other countries, concerning the use of CBD products has seen a huge surge in people trying to understand how cannabis can help them treat many illnesses, especially psychosis and anxiety. CBD can now be legally grown and its oil can be sold in all 50 states in the US.

Understanding cannabis and its products

The cannabis plant consists of over 85 known phyto- chemicals which are known as cannabinoids. The human body also produces cannabinoid molecules when we are feeling happy or relaxed and also while we sleep or exercise. These “feel good” molecules bind to cannabinoid receptors within our bodies and help keep a balance with our digestive system, help keep inflammation at bay, modulate pain and maintain our mood levels.

Anandamide is one of the main cannabinoid molecules found in our body. It was discovered as recently as 1992 and was named from the Sanskrit meaning “bliss molecule”. CBD oil contains cannabinoids that stop the breakdown of anandamide in the body keeping those levels of bliss high.

Many people are scared to try CBD oil as they have been led to believe that it will have a psychoactive effect on them.

Safety Concerns

As far as the safety concerns many express about CBD usage; it seems to be exceedingly safe. The FDA recently approved the use of a CBD medication for the treatment of two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. While it does help to relax the body and relieve pain, CBD has fewer side effects than the opioid drugs usually prescribed. Even when a larger dose than usual is ingested CBD does not suppress the breathing centers of the brain like opioids do.

Studies have shown that even small doses of10mg per day are effective, and for those patients needing higher dosages no negative side effects have been detected. In one study, patients were given up to 1280mg per day without them getting any negative side effects.

As with all medications it is best to check with a doctor before starting on any new medications and to get advice on dosage.

Isn’t CBD and marijuana the same thing?

CBD oil comes from the hemp or cannabis sativa plant which has been cultivated for thousands of years.  Hemp is a cannabis plant that is closely related to the marijuana plant, but unlike marijuana has very low levels of tetrahydro-cannabinoids (THC). THC is the substance that effectually gives people that feeling of a “high”.  CBD oil is actually used to counter the negative side effects of THC, which include: appetite loss, paranoia and many others.

What is psychosis?

The term psychosis is usually used for a broad category of severe mental disorders by most of us. There are more specific ways in which it is defined by mental health professionals.

They seek in the individuals before them the presence of hallucinations, delusions, a marked impairment that interferes with social, professional or academic life and an extremely poor idea of reality.

There are many schools of thought on the subject, with some believing in a biological view which names psychosis a “broken brain” disease. Others believe that it is crucially intertwined with chronically repressed anger or rage. Shared Psychotic Disorder and Brief Psychotic Disorder both demonstrate how they have a psychological nature, as opposed to biological one, as they are both usually reactively offset by extremely stressful trauma and can disappear in a short time.

Most of us associate psychosis with schizophrenia, but schizophrenia is only prevalent in about 1% of the population and it is only one form of psychosis. There are many other specified psychotic disorders which include Schizophreniform Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder. Brief Psychotic Disorder, Delusional Disorder, Shared Psychotic Disorder, Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder and General Medical Condition Psychotic Disorder. Sufferers of Massive Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Paranoid and Schizotypal Personality Disorder may also experience psychosis.

Psychosis sufferers have difficulty in accepting reality and tend to distort it, and their consciousness is overtaken by their unconscious. In Jungian psychology it is seen as an extreme form of introversion, where a sufferer completely withdraws from the trauma of whatever form of stress they are exposed to.

Diagnosing and Treating Psychosis

It is highly unlikely that doctors can predict psychosis in individuals, but there is a way for them to identify prognostic risk in individuals, especially when predicting violent or suicidal behavior. Those who have had a prior history are more likely to have set backs and there are individuals who are considered high risk because of diagnosed latent psychosis that could manifest itself under extremely stressful conditions.

People more susceptible to psychosis when under extreme stress are usually sufferers of Borderline, Schizotypal, Schinoid or Paranoid Personality Disorder. Patients with Bipolar Disorder are extremely vulnerable, especially during a full-blown manic attack.

Psychosis can affect people with depression, also known as psychotic depression and is seen in a lot of women who have previously had postpartum mood depression. These patients have a likelihood of recurrence that approaches 50%.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) frequently triggers psychosis. This has been attested to over many years of observations by psychologists and psychiatrists in their private practices, clinics and hospital experiences with patients who have suffered from PSTD. Criminal defendants also show high levels of psychosis during forensic evaluations.

Drug abuse, or otherwise what is also known as psychoactive substance abuse, is a major contributor to psychosis in individuals. Methamphetamines, crack cocaine and hallucinogens are all included in the list of drugs that can have this effect.

Many of us have seen images from media reports and films where individuals with psychosis are exorcised with some form of religious rights. Up until a century and a half ago it was believed that psychotic people were possessed by a demonic spirits; this is still seen in some societies today, thankfully rarely.

It is still not well understood why some individuals are more prone to psychosis than others. and some scientists believe that none of us are completely immune to ever suffering from some form of the condition. If psychosis is less of biochemical or neurological imbalance and more of a psychological defense mechanism, then it stands to reason that we are all predisposed to potentially have it at some point.

Not all psychotic symptoms can be controlled by prescribed antipsychotic drugs. The newer drugs are known as “atypical “antipsychotics and can control most psychotic symptoms to an extent. However, many of the symptoms remain partially masked by the medication. Unfortunately, anti psychotic medications have very serious side effects and their effectiveness is still relatively unproven. Some of their side effects include over- sedation, weight gain and temporary or permanent neurological symptoms.

Moreover, they only address the symptoms and not the underlying source of the psychosis. All indications show that long-term use of psychotic and antidepressant drugs make patients more prone to these debilitating conditions rather than minimizing them.

These medications work in a similar fashion to antidepressants and they regulate neurotransmissions, while also suppressing anxiety and anger chemically.

Early diagnosis and intervention is essential if a difference is to be made. While antipsychotic drugs may be necessary, patients require intensive psychotherapy to assist them on their path to living a normal day to day life.

How can CBD oil help those with psychosis?

Decades of research have offered a long list of benefits to using CBD oil. These have been seconded by the World Health Organization’s committee on drug dependence.

With all of the restrictions in the past on CBD sales, many people were not aware of this research. Now that CBD oil has been legalized, more researchers will be able to continue their quest for the benefits offered by the oil.

Research has shown that CBD may help reduce the effects of PTSD, lowers feelings of isolation and relieve the symptoms of autism. Its effects on the brain are calming and it seems to support the activity on the hippocampus, the area within the brain responsible for emotions and memory.

In another study it was shown that CBD had the same effect on those with social anxiety as ipsapirone and diazepam (valium). In the study, 40 volunteers were given one or the other and both groups enjoyed equal levels of reduced anxiety. Interestingly, those that took the CBD oil had fewer of the side effects often reported by those using prescribed anti-psychotic medications.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (4 May 2016, 36(18): 5160-5169) the significant therapeutic effectiveness of CBD was shown in the treatment of schizophrenia. It was identified that CBD acts in the nucleus accumbens (this is the primary area of pleasure within the brain) and that it produces similar effects to standard anti-psychotic medication. This topples all claims that CBD induces psychosis, and the use of marijuana does also not show any association with early onset schizophrenia of the individuals included in the research.

When attributing the causes of developing psychosis, it appears to be essential that all variables be taken into account and the positive findings in the case of CBD oil are making waves within the medical profession and researchers.

Effective dosage of CBD oil

A small dose, once or twice a day, is usually best in the beginning and it can be worked up according to individual needs and levels of anxiety. It is best to not self prescribe, and a medical practitioner or trained dispensary assistant should be consulted for the dosage and how it could react together with other prescribed medications.

People with severe mental health symptoms or conditions should first consult with their medical practitioner or therapist.

These professionals are also trained to assist in the best way to take the CBD oil. It is most effective when placed under the tongue for a few seconds and should be taken with food.

CBD oil made from the best quality hemp should be sought; dispensaries are most knowledgeable and can make recommendations. This oil should contain less than 0.3 mg of THC. CBD oil does not show up in routine testing for drugs but it’s best to inform employers, trainers etc. about its use.

CBD oil and psychosis

If looking to achieve a state of mental well being and balance from anxiety and psychosis then look out for a high quality version from a reputable producer. This will best be taken in a prescribed dosage as suggested by him and the product will always be consistent in quality and strength.

Supplements and the inclusion of CBD are not the only things required to ensure positive changes in levels of anxiety. Lifestyle and dietary changes will also contribute to a great extent, as do the introduction of rituals to relieve stress. Regular visits to a therapist and doctor, in combination with all the other changes, will promote a balanced atmosphere to help alleviate most forms of psychosis.

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