Thursday, June 7, 2012

Marijuana-Derived Compound For Treating Schizophrenia

Over at PJMedia, Steven Green wrote a piece about efforts to legalize marijuana in Colorado, and not surprisingly, the potheads turned out in force to explain how marijuana can cure every disease known to man, solve our energy crisis, end war, create world harmony, etc.  I mentioned that marijuana has some risks, too, because of its causal connection to schizophrenia (as does alcohol), and of course, the potheads and libertarians went a little crazy.  My favorite, however, was this comment:

A compound found in marijuana can treat schizophrenia as effectively as antipsychotic medications, with far fewer side effects, according to a preliminary clinical trial.
Read more:
Now why would they treat someone with schizophrenia with the drug who gave them schizophrenia?
It's an interesting article.  Researchers have found a compound in marijuana that seems to be effective in treating schizophrenia symptoms--but it isn't smoking marijuana.
A compound found in marijuana can treat schizophrenia as effectively as antipsychotic medications, with far fewer side effects, according to a preliminary clinical trial.
Researchers led by Markus Leweke of the University of Cologne in Germany studied 39 people with schizophrenia who were hospitalized for a psychotic episode. Nineteen patients were treated with amisulpride, an antipsychotic medication that is not approved in the U.S., but is comparable to other medications that are.
The rest of the patients were given cannabidiol (CBD), a substance found in marijuana that is thought to be responsible for some of its mellowing or anxiety-reducing effects. Unlike the main ingredient in marijuana, THC, which can produce psychotic reactions and may worsen schizophrenia, CBD has antipsychotic effects, according to previous research in both animals and humans.
Read more:
Interesting research, and well worth pursuing.  But note carefully: it is not smoking pot that reduces symptoms.  It is a specific compound present in marijuana.

UPDATE: I'm hoping that the comment that showed up on this post on my blog was robo-generated, because the alternative reading is that regular pot smoking impairs reading skills.  It was a comment from the U.S. Marijuana Party (yes, there is such a thing) candidate for U.S. Senate in one of the New England states asking for pro bono help understanding campaign finance laws.


  1. I, too, am frustrated by people trying to combat drug laws by claiming that a particular drug, especially marijuana, has no ill effects. Worse, that marijuana is a panacea. That's the snake-oil flag.

    Instead, I want to see attacks on the ill effects of the drug war itself. One well known unintended consequence is the denial of painkillers to patients with true, agonized needs.

    This study high lights another one of those negative effects: the suppression of research into the benefits, however specific and limited, of drugs that have been misused for "recreation". For a long time, the only research that was allowed at all had to be aimed at proving what a scourge a particular drug was.

    I'm glad to see work like this being done, and thank you for reporting it.

  2. When did the law change allowing such research into benefits?

    I remember seeing a Wall Street Journal article some years ago decrying physician-assisted suicide, but pointing out that it was at least causing more discussion of the need to allow terminal patients who were in pain more access to painkillers. I am very uncomfortable with physician-assisted suicide (or suicide, period). I am not at all uncomfortable with giving terminal patients in pain as much as they need to stop the pain.