CBD and Parkinson's Disease

Scientists investigating the use of CBD as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease-related psychosis

Scientists investigating the use of CBD as a treatment for Parkinson's disease-related psychosis

Cannabidiol, short for CBD, has emerged as the most popular alternative treatment to manage pain relief and inflammation. Due to CBD’s increased popularity, scientists are now eager to find out if the amazing substance can be used to treat and potentially eliminate the debilitating symptoms that Parkinson’s disease patients experience, primarily psychosis. While doctors are more than willing to prescribe antipsychotic drugs, unfortunately, the negative side effects tend to result in worsened motor skills and the inability to function doing when doing daily tasks. There are currently no known antipsychotic medications specifically for Parkinson’s disease patients, and with the all around very-positive news about CBD, doctors and scientists are pushing to get CBD into more clinical trials today.

Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharya, MD, PhD, a professor of Translational Neuroscience and Psychiatry at King’s College in London, believes that CBD can help alleviate the psychosis. He and his team announced that they will be conducting a phase 2 clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of high grade CBD with patients struggling with psychosis symptoms, with hopes to lessen more specific ones such as hallucinations and delusions.

What are the issues with pharmaceutical antipsychotics?

Most antipsychotic medications, while very efficient in alleviating some of the symptoms, are very much well known for their negative side effects. Some of those side effects, as previously mentioned, can be debilitating to our motor skills, including heightened amounts of muscle spasms, and severe tremors. While there are newer antipsychotic medications being discovered that are trying to lessen the effects on our motor function, they still tend to cause other unwanted effects such as weight gain, high fat content in our blood, and constant fatigue or sedation.

So how can CBD help psychosis?

All humans have a signalling system called the endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for physiological processes that handle pain management, memory, mood, appetite, anti-inflammation, and other immune system responses. Within our body lies a multitude of two major types of endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, and is found in our central nervous system primarily within our brain and spinal cord. When taken, cannabidiol (CBD) binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors as an agonist, signalling our body to reduce any inflammation and affecting our mood making one feel less anxious and or depressed.

The effects of cannabidiol on potentially blocking the molecules that could trigger psychosis, while only proven mostly on animal studies and some clinical trials, have all had an extremely positive outcome. The first clinical study published in 1995, was about a 19 year old female suffering from schizophrenia that had negative adverse side effects to antipsychotic medications. She took up to 1500mg of CBD per day for 4 straight weeks and significantly reduced her psychosis symptoms while displaying no evidence of side effects. Once she stopped the use of CBD, the psychosis symptoms recurred.

Since then, only two other studies have been conducted, one study showed that CBD reduced the amount of psychosis episodes in 6 patients suffering with Parkinson’s disease. The other one, which has been the largest study to date, involved 42 patients comparing CBD versus a conventional medication, amisulpride, in the reduction of schizophrenic symptoms. After 4 weeks of taking 800mg of CBD per day, a significant reduction of psychosis symptoms was seen.

A new study arises

According to Dr. Bhattacharya, the new trial will be the first ever large-scale clinical trial testing CBD specifically for Parkinson’s disease patients. The 120 plus person trial is set to begin with a 6 week pilot study to test for safety, efficacy, and tolerance of pharmaceutical high grade CBD. Each patient will administer up to 1000mg of CBD per day through soft gel capsules, with hopes to find the optimal dosage necessary to treat the psychosis symptoms. The next stage of the clinical trial will be a 12 week double blind placebo controlled study along with brain imaging scans to be able to assess the efficacy of CBD in treating the symptoms and motor skill changes. Recruitment is set to start early in 2020.

“This trial will provide evidence of the value of CBD to treat the symptoms of hallucinations and delusions in people with Parkinson’s,” said Arthur Roach, PhD, Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK. Dr. Bhattacharya also added, “the study will also look at the effect of CBD on other symptoms which will pave the way for scientists to investigate the potential of the compound in treating these in future studies.”

In a recent confidential survey conducted in the UK, patients with Parkinson’s disease said that they would continue or start using cannabis-derived products if the evidence was concrete and available and showed signs of safety and efficacy to treat and manage the disease related symptoms. Stay tuned for an update by mid to late 2020.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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