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CBD’s Impressive Ability to Treat Mental Illness

CBD’s Impressive Ability to Treat Mental Illness

CBD's impressive ability to improve psychiatric illness status, without the unwanted psychoactive side effects, is gaining recognition.

Psychiatric disorders have reached epidemic proportions over the recent years. The National Institutes of Mental Health estimates that over 43 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, amounting to over 18 percent of US adults (1). Annually over 300 billion dollars are spent in treating the myriad of mental and emotional complaints that plague society such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADD, ADHD, and PTSD, some which will be the focus of separate articles entirely. Globally, mental illnesses are the third leading cause of illness, disability, and premature death behind just cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

In my private practice, I see mental illness as a significant obstacle to achieving optimal wellness, be it general melancholy, sadness, or general feelings of hopelessness. People are generally overwhelmed with the demands of life to the point where they are unable to function in a productive manner. The majority of the complaints I hear about are relationship stress, financial concerns, and parenting, as well as mood changes associated with the menstrual cycle, female and male menopause, aging, and chronic illness. As of January 1st of this year in the state of Arizona, PTSD is now considered part of the diagnostic criteria where someone may legally obtain a medical marijuana card in its treatment. The time is now to be considering alternative approaches to this pandemic problem.

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder is a particular area of interest to me due to its widespread prevalence today. Not just limited to the military, it is a complex issue whose roots wind tortuously into the deep traumas someone may experience in combat, or as a result of a car accident, or even from emotional or physical abuse. In such circumstances, the individual continues to relive the event or events as if they were happening all over again, in real time. Now known to be a very valid and serious condition, PTSD is the major cause of why over 22 veterans take their lives every single day (2). The current treatment model for PTSD is mostly limited to the SSRI medications such as Paxil and Zoloft, the main adverse side effect of which horribly is suicidal tendencies (3). Clearly this model needs to be expanded upon or outright changed.

Fortunately the scientific community has long recognized a number of non-pharmacologic approaches to treating psychiatric disorders. The practices of yoga and meditation, for instance have been historically looked at to be of equal to a greater value that SSRI medications for depression or anxiolytics for social anxiety disorder (4). The same can be said for the ancient studies of Tai Chi and Chi Gong (5). The plant kingdom is probably our greatest resource for combatting life’s assaults on our nervous systems. Herbs such as Withania, Passiflora, Curcuma, Piper, and Valerian, have been shown to significantly improve anxiety, depression, in addition to manic depression and bipolar disorder as well (6).

In the wake of the medical Marijuana movement, Cannabidiol (CBD) is gaining recognition expressly for its impressive ability to improve psychiatric illness status without the unwanted psychoactive side effects of whole plant Cannabis. In fact, CBD is shown to work specifically at areas of the brain that are adversely affected by THC, in effect reducing the negative effects of Marijuana altogether (7, 8).

CBD’s antipsychotic actions are diverse and powerful and its pharmacological profile is said to be similar to many of the atypical antipsychotic agents commonly used today (9). One of its proposed mechanisms of action is via making Anandamide, the body’s premier endocannabinoid, more available to exert its positive benefits throughout the various bodily systems (9, 10).

The clinical benefits of CBD in psychiatric illness are far-reaching, extending from anxiety to depression, and even schizophrenia. Given such widespread prevalence, the time is now more than ever to reconsider the strictly pharmaceutical approach in managing psychiatric disorders. Could CBD be the holy grail that science and medicine have been seeking? Given its safety record, clinical efficacy, and legal status, we certainly seem to be on the right track.



1. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml

2. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/PTSD/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp

3. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/overview/clinicians-guide-to-medications-for-ptsd.asp

4. Indian J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul; 55(Suppl 3): S369–S373.

doi:  10.4103/0019-5545.116312. Positive antidepressant effects of generic yoga in depressive outpatients: A comparative study. B. N. GangadharG. H. NaveenM. G. RaoJ. Thirthalli, and S. Varambally

5. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 168784. The Treatment of Depressed Chinese Americans Using Qigong in a Health Care Setting: A Pilot Study. Albert Yeung,1 ,2 , 3 ,* Lauren E. Slipp, Jolene Jacquart, Maurizio Fava, John W. Denninger, Herbert Benson, 1and Gregory L. Fricchione 1

6. CNS Drugs.2013 Apr;27(4):301-19. doi: 10.1007/s40263-013-0059-9. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: a review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. Sarris J1McIntyre ECamfield DA.

7. Curr Pharm Des.2012;18(32):5131-40.

A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation.

Zuardi AW1Crippa JAHallak JEBhattacharyya SAtakan ZMartin-Santos RMcGuire PKGuimarães FS.

8. Braz J Med Biol Res.2006 Apr;39(4):421-9. Epub 2006 Apr 3.

Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an antipsychotic drug.

Zuardi AW1Crippa JAHallak JEMoreira FAGuimarães FS.

9. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.2012 Dec 5;367(1607):3364-78. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0389.

Multiple mechanisms involved in the large-spectrum therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in psychiatric disorders.Campos AC1Moreira FAGomes FVDel Bel EAGuimarães FS.

10. World J Biol Psychiatry.2010 Mar;11(2 Pt 2):208-19. doi: 10.3109/15622970801908047.

Potential antipsychotic properties of central cannabinoid (CB1) receptor antagonists. Roser P1Vollenweider FXKawohl W.

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