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  Cannabis Chemical Curbs Psychotic Symptoms
Posted by CN Staff on April 30, 2007 at 21:10:39 PT
By James Randerson, Science Correspondent 
Source: Guardian Unlimited UK 

cannabis London -- One of the active chemicals in cannabis inhibits psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia, according to a study which compared it with a leading anti-psychotic drug. Although the finding could lead to new treatments for schizophrenia, scientists think it may also explain why cases of cannabis-induced psychosis are apparently on the rise.

Most cannabis research focuses on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that produces the high. Recent studies have shown THC makes symptoms of schizophrenia worse and triggers the condition in a small proportion of users.

But the new research shows that another chemical, cannabidiol (CBD), has the opposite effect. "One possibility is that there are good guys and bad guys within cannabis," said Markus Leweke, of the University of Cologne. He and his team compared the effects of CBD and a leading anti-psychotic drug, Amisulpride, on 42 patients with schizophrenia. After four weeks the symptoms of both groups had improved, but those treated with CBD suffered fewer side-effects.

"Maybe the cannabidiol ameliorates some of the effects of the THC and maybe it actually might be good for you if you are psychotic," said Robin Murray, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. They reported their research at the second International Cannabis and Mental Health Conference in London.

There is anecdotal evidence that the number of patients in the UK with psychotic symptoms linked to cannabis use is increasing. Professor Murray speculated that this may be linked to the increased THC content of herbal cannabis sold on the street. Cannabis on sale today has roughly doubled in strength in the last decade.

In a second set of experiments, researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry have shown how THC acts on the brain to induce paranoia. "By using brain scanning you can look in real time at the effect of the different components of the cannabis on healthy people and see how it's affecting the healthy brain," said Philip McGuire, a brain imaging expert at King's College London.

The team gave subjects a dose of THC or a placebo and then observed which areas of the brain were active while they performed a computer task that involved stopping certain movements. All volunteers were healthy men between 20 and 40 who had used the drug fewer than 15 times.

By looking at the difference in brain activity between placebo and THC groups, the researchers identified a region that is involved in controlling inappropriate behaviour. Those with the biggest reduction in the activity of that brain region also experienced more paranoid symptoms.

"One possible interpretation of that is the paranoia is being driven by interfering with this area of the brain," said Professor McGuire.

Newshawk: The GCW
Source: Guardian Unlimited (UK)
Author: James Randerson, Science Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Copyright: 2007 Guardian Newspapers Limited

Related Articles:

Scans Show How Cannabis Affects Brain

Study: Marijuana Damages Brain

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Comment #14 posted by Hope on May 10, 2007 at 10:13:41 PT
It's a shame Dr. Russo doesn't post with us anymore, but I hope he still checks in from time to time.

He is doing research for a pharmeceutical company delving into the medicinal properties of cannabis, now, that doesn't want him posting with the rabble, I think.

We miss him...but wherever he is and whatever he is doing...he is trying to make the properties of the plant...and the plant itself, available to those who need it.

He is a champion for our cause...freedom...peace...wellness, and he is working hard for us, I hope...somewhere.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by whig on May 10, 2007 at 01:36:23 PT

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #12 posted by Cyndi on May 10, 2007 at 01:20:42 PT

These comments are off topic...

I was vague in my "opinion" of the dangers of legalizing marijuana, and not being under medical supervision. I will be more specific...and more humble..

What are the benefits of a teenager staying on marijuana while weaning himself from hard drugs BUT he's not under a medical supervision team???

Remember he's not under a medical supervision team.

I'm open to reading the pros and cons and learning. (I enjoy research & understand some articles are ridiculously biased.)

warmest regards

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Comment #11 posted by Cyndi on May 10, 2007 at 00:26:58 PT
For Hope
Hope, I appreciate hearing your insights. I will keep reading and increase in learning. You are a caring person and I appreciate you.

warmest regards, Cyndi

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Comment #10 posted by Cyndi on May 10, 2007 at 00:20:25 PT
Whig, thank you for the welcome and for understanding my concerns. I appreciate hearing that psychiatrists use marijuana to treat schizophrenia, various degrees of depression, and bipolar disease.

I have a friend who suffered with mild depression, which worsened to chronic depression, which turned into bi-polar disease. She admitted herself into a mental institution twice. And, it took two years for the Drs. to stabilize her medication.

The type of adrenal disease I have is the "root problem" to my chronic depression. What with the herbs I'm taking, they will most likely restore & repair the diseased glands and lift the depression.

Yesterday my Dr. told me that Acupuncture immediately relieves depression. I see light at the end of the tunnel.

The statements I made were simply stating some of my concerns. They were statements of opinion and I'm open to learning. I appreciate the feedback you gave me.

warmest regards

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Comment #9 posted by whig on May 07, 2007 at 16:59:37 PT
I'm not a medical doctor and more importantly I am not your medical doctor, so do not take my suggestions as professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about any drugs that you might be taking including any herbs, because cannabis is certainly not the only one to have effects for people with mental illness.

That having been said, the effects of cannabis have thus far been found beneficial for treating mental illness including schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar. Different strains have different effects, some are higher in THC and others in CBD, these are the two major identified psychoactive compounds in cannabis. A high THC strain might increase feelings of paranoia if you are prone to it already, whereas a high CBD strain might help you sleep.

If you are currently taking prescribed medications, do not discontinue or alter your dose without consulting with your doctor. Many psychiatric drugs have serious withdrawal risks, including rebound worsening of your condition. They must be tapered carefully when withdrawn, and this should be done only under medical supervision.

Cannabis is legal in California for people with conditions that it helps. There are psychiatrists who do recommend cannabis for mental illnesses similar to your own. Do not take this as a recommendation for yourself, as I said at the outset, I am not a medical doctor, and I am not qualified to diagnose or prescribe for you.

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Comment #8 posted by Hope on May 07, 2007 at 16:05:06 PT
Welcome, Cyndi.
Schizophrenia is a very serious illness, but I think it's genetic and you either have it or you don't. I never heard of depression leading to or causing schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is schizophrenia. Schizoprhenics, no doubt, get horribly depressed. It's a terrifying disease. Cannabis does not cause it. Even researchers who want to drag cannabis into the situation will admit that the people they are talking about already had the genetics and potential to develop other words...they already had it, but,apparently, hadn't suffered any noticable symptoms until after they'd used cannabis. Cannabis did not cause their schizophrenia and those researchers aknowledge that that is indeed the case. They were talking about people who had the propensity to it already and they were just trying to draw a connection...but did not, and indeed, could not, prove anything all.

Cannabis is an herb, itself.

I never heard that chronic depression could lead to bipolar, either. Some people who are depressed are pretty much always depressed...but they don't get the opposite, manic effect that bi-polar patients have to endure. One doesn't "lead" to the other any more than measles leads to mumps, as far as I've ever known.

Maybe I'm wrong, but what you are saying sounds wrong.

I hope that you can get your health restored.

Cannabis is, for a fact, completely non lethal. It may not interact well with some other herbal or pharmecutically produced medicines. It may not be a pleasant experience for everyone..but it's non-lethal and won't turn other herbs that are non-lethal, lethal.

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Comment #7 posted by BGreen on May 07, 2007 at 14:52:55 PT
Welcome, Cyndi
I happen to disagree with you about the dangers you associate with legalizing cannabis.

The so-called "dangers" you associate with cannabis are unsubstantiated and are highly questionable since they just haven't been observed in the real world, despite millions of users over thousands of years.

I hope you get your medicine without threat of jail, but please don't regurgitate government drug war propaganda as fact. It's just going to hurt your ability to get your medicine when you help spread the governments lies.

We used to have the honor of having Dr. Ethan Russo post here. He's one of the leading experts in cannabis as medicine and a Neurologist, and he never talked about these so-called dangers you write about.

No offense, but he knows more than all of us, including you, and I believe him.

Stick around for a while, do a little research on your own, and see if you still feel the way you currently do.

The Reverend Bud Green

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Comment #6 posted by Cyndi on May 07, 2007 at 13:29:18 PT
one gnat's perspective
Schizophrenia is a very serious debilitating illness. Patients need to be closely monitored by a medical team of Doctors. From my understanding, depression, if left untreated, can sometimes lead to schizophrenia or bipolar disease. Most bipolar patients commit suicide.

It's very very dangerous to legalize marijuana, without issuing a strong warning, that one must be under a medical Drs. supervision. But I do hope marijuana gets legalized for medical purposes.

I suffer from an adrenal disease (curable). My adrenals are in a chronic state of deterioration and I'm quite ill. I'm under medical supervision, using herbs that will probably restore and repair the adrenal gland - provided that - there aren't any other diseases present. I suffer from chronic bouts of depression, which is extremely debilitating.

I've never smoked marijuana. I'm not comfortable taking a risk in trying various strands of marijuana b'c I don't know how marijuana could possibly have a chemical reaction with my medicinal herbs. Marijuana could lessen the potency of the herbs, which could be detrimental to the healing process time table. And, I just want to get better .. the faster the better...

Also, chronic depression can lead to bipolar. I don't even know if I'm bipolar! This issue hasn't been addressed by my medical doctor and maybe it should be addressed.

All's I know is that I just want to get better...

I empathize with those who are on marijuana and are crying out for compassion...

Marijuana is illegal in my State.

Are there Medical Doctors who comment on this message board?

warmest regards

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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on May 01, 2007 at 15:10:02 PT
paul armentano
"To draw a real world comparison, millions of Americans safely use ibuprofen as an effective pain reliever. However, among a minority of the population who suffer from liver and kidney problems, ibuprofen presents a legitimate and substantial health risk."

To continue the analogy: peanuts are a nutritious food when they are balanced with other protein sources, but to some people peanuts are deadly due to anaphylactic shock. Yet, there is no movement by the FDA or the Congress to prohibit peanuts.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by paul armentano on May 01, 2007 at 10:53:31 PT
Maia Szalavitz/STATS
Glad to see that Maia Szalavitz from WDC's Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) injects some sanity to the latest round of irrational AP and Reuters headlines.

IMO, these latest claims from the UK are much ado about nothing. It’s well known that CBD has anxiolytic properties and that THC (and it’s primary active metabolite 11-OH-THC) is psychoactive and can at times, be very psychoactive; that’s one of the reason Sativex has a 1 to 1 THC to CBD ratio. It’s also been documented that chronic use of cannabis may have a negative impact on a minority of the population pre-disposed to certain mental illnesses (though I've just got my hands on a new study from the UK, "A comparison of symptoms of family history in schizophrenia with and without prior cannabis use," contradicting this notion), so upon first glance this is hardly alarming "news". Moreover, as I've argued before (See below) such risks, when proven, only add to the argument in favor of regulation: Cannabis, Mental Health and Context: The Case For Regulation by Paul Armentano Senior Policy Analyst NORML | NORML Foundation Updated November 1, 2006

“If there does exist a minority population of citizens who may be genetically prone to potential harms from cannabis (such as, possibly, those predisposed to schizophrenia), then a regulated system would best identify and educate this sub-population to pot's potential risks so that they may refrain from its use, if they so choose.

To draw a real world comparison, millions of Americans safely use ibuprofen as an effective pain reliever. However, among a minority of the population who suffer from liver and kidney problems, ibuprofen presents a legitimate and substantial health risk. However, this fact no more calls for the criminalization of ibuprofen among adults than do the Drug Czar's half-baked claims, even if true, call for the current prohibition of cannabis.”

Regards, -- Paul Armentano Senior Policy Analyst NORML | NORML Foundation

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by FoM on May 01, 2007 at 08:51:43 PT
Breaking News: Marijuana Gets You High!
By Maia Szalavitz

May 1, 2007

Washington, DC -- Totally awesome brain scans freak reporters out. Does sex "damage" the brain too?

While brain scans can contribute a great deal to our understanding of mental illness, addiction and how the brain works ordinarily, their effects on journalists are not so positive. Take the lead of this story by the AP, covering a study of marijuana:

“New findings on marijuana's damaging effect on the brain show the drug triggers temporary psychotic symptoms in some people, including hallucinations and paranoid delusions, doctors say.”

As anyone who has ever smoked marijuana or watched a Cheech and Chong movie could tell you: “Duh!” The fact that marijuana produces paranoia and hallucinations temporarily is not exactly headline-making. And calling this a “damaging effect on the brain” is misleading: damage implies permanent, detrimental changes; the brain scans in question show only a moment in time when the subjects were high, not what happened afterwards. By the same token, eating chocolate, having sex, or going for a run could all be classified as having a “damaging” effect on the brain.

Which is why it’s important to note when covering brain scan-based research that a “change” in the brain isn’t necessarily a bad thing: learning, falling in love, seeing, hearing and virtually any other experience can be expected to cause changes in the brain. If something doesn’t cause a change, it hasn’t been remembered or experienced. The tricky part is determining what brain changes mean.

The study in question did find interesting things about the areas of the brain affected by marijuana. But the AP claimed that it “provides physical evidence of the drug's damaging influence on the human brain,” which is simply not a conclusion that can be drawn from this data. Scanning someone’s brain while they are under the influence of a drug tells us nothing about what that brain is like when they are not under the influence.

This study looked at users while they were high, so it cannot offer any information about after-effects. Only a study that scanned the same people repeatedly over a long period of time could do that. Journalists need to understand what brain scans can and cannot prove, especially as such data moves from the lab into the courtroom and legal system.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by potpal on May 01, 2007 at 06:51:07 PT
Run amok
Why do I feel like Red McMurphy sitting at a table with a bunch of clueless health care officials? They drag this story out every 3 months or so and give it to their tools to desiminate...reefer madness, nothing more.

It's medication time... How do their precious pharmeceuticls affect the brain?

Know, then grow...

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by whig on April 30, 2007 at 21:51:19 PT
Different smokes for different folks
Some people prefer indica. Some prefer sativa. Doctors can make appropriate recommendations, as can people who find benefit from one or the other.

Even if cannabis exacerbated some pre-existing conditions, it is not the cause of those conditions. Moreover, temporary exacerbation might be long-term beneficial, if it helps the person to bring to the surface long suppressed emotions and feelings which can then be dealt with appropriately, for instance.

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