Cannabis strains high in CBD may ‘protect brain’ from THC, research shows

  • New study from UCL show CBD may help protect brain from ‘harmful’ effects of THC
  • Researchers believe CBD may be able to be used as a treatment for psychosis
  • There is no conclusive evidence that THC causes psychosis; only correlations found so far
  • Researchers want cannabis high in CBD more readily available, suggesting legalisation as the best way

One of the more common arguments against legalising cannabis is that its use may cause psychosis.

The science is far from being settled on this, with recent studies debating whether the link between cannabis and developing psychosis is a correlation rather than a causation, or highlighting that schizophrenics are using cannabis to help treat their condition, rather than fuel it.

There is also evidence to suggest that cannabis may induce users into psychotic episodes, especially amongst those already predisposed (although the study ponders wether other factors may contribute, such as early or heavy use of cigarettes or alcohol and poor school performance.)

A new study, published in the Journal of Pharmacology, may make the debate redundant.

Researchers at UCL found that cannabis strains higher in Cannabidiol (CBD) have a lower impact on the function of our brains, suggesting CBD may have a protective effect.

Researchers invited 17 people to participate in the study, splitting them into two control groups: one was provided with high THC, but negligible CBD strain (similar to street cannabis), while the other groups was given a strain with the same level of THC but a more equal level of CBD. They then monitored the brain activity at rest in the participants.

The study found that the low-CBD strain (street cannabis) impaired functional connectivity in the brain’s default mode (particularly in the posterior cingulate area) and salience networks, while the high-CBD strain caused only a minimal disruption to the these regions, suggesting that the CBD counteracts some of THC’s harmful effects.

The salience network supports other brain networks, determining what emotional or sensory inputs we pay attention to.

Disruptions to the network have previously been implicated in addiction and psychosis.

The researchers also found that the THC-induced disruption of functional connectivity in the posterior cingulate was strongly correlated with participants’ reports of subjective experiences, such as feeling more ‘stoned’ or ‘high’, suggesting that the brain area may be central to driving cannabis’ subjective effects.

This relationship between the posterior cingulate and subjective effects was also blocked by CBD, suggesting CBD may be able to block users feeling ‘stoned.’

As cannabis is becoming legal in more parts of the world, people buying cannabis should be able to make an informed decision about their choice of cannabis strain and be aware of the relative risks.”
Dr Matt Wall, study lead author, (UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit and Invicro)

Discussing the results of the study, Dr Matt Wall, the study’s lead author, explained how the research suggests that the best way to prevent people developing psychosis, and other mental illness attributed to cannabis, is to legalise it:

“Over the last two decades, rates of addiction and psychosis linked to cannabis have been on the rise, while at the same time stronger strains of cannabis with more THC and less CBD have become increasingly common.

“We have now found that CBD appears to buffer the user against some of the acute effects of THC on the brain.

“As cannabis is becoming legal in more parts of the world, people buying cannabis should be able to make an informed decision about their choice of cannabis strain and be aware of the relative risks.”

Professor Val Curran, co-author of the study, added that the research may lead to further studies on the potential of using CBD as a treatment for psychosis:

“If CBD can restore disruption to the salience network, this could be a neuroprotective mechanism to explain its potential to treat disorders of salience such as psychosis and addiction.”

The debate whether cannabis causes psychosis is now nearly irrelevant.

If cannabis is causing psychosis, it is because of its high THC, low CBD content: this phenomenon only exists due to prohibition.

When you criminalise a substance, you simply do not prevent use. In fact, research shows that drug use has risen exponentially since prohibition.

Restricting access to drugs leads to a higher potency of said drugs, just look at the prohibition of alcohol in the USA: not only did bootleggers start to produce extremely strong moonshine, but it also led to the rise in organised crime, specifically the mafia.

Those who are genuinely concerned about preventing vulnerable people from developing psychosis from cannabis, therefore, must logically support legalisation.

With legalisation comes a greater variety of strains of cannabis. No longer will consumers be at the mercy of the black market. The strains available on the black market are nearly exclusively high THC, low CBD.

Giving people a choice, between high CBD and high THC cannabis, may curb the potentially harmful effect THC is having on users’ brains. Legalise cannabis: it’s a no brainer.

If you don’t want to wait for the Government’s permission to use a non-toxic medication, then grow your own!

Medical Marijuana Genetics are the world’s leaders in producing strains high in CBD.

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