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3 Medicinal Benefits of Cannabinoids

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Cannabinoids (CBD) can help people with some debilitating illnesses and conditions. This includes treating anxiety, depression, and even psychosis.

Here, Alberto Sainz Cort, principal scientist in Human Studies at contract research organisation Broughton, explores three areas of medical research where we can see the medicinal benefits of CBD.

Scientific evidence has indicated the effectiveness of CBD in treating childhood epilepsy conditions, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which often don’t respond to antiseizure medications.

In many studies, CBD helped reduce the number of seizures and, in some cases, stopped them altogether. For example, Epidiolex contains CBD, and in 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for treating Dravet Syndrome.

CBD is recognised for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, and over the years, clinical trials and other studies have dug deeper into its therapeutic properties and effects. From this, we know it can support the treatment of many other conditions.

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions, with The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimating that 19.1% of US adults experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year.

When consumed, CBD interacts with several receptors known to regulate fear and anxiety behaviours – the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and the transient receptor potential (TRP) vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptor. 

Early scientific research, preclinical evidence and randomized clinical studies support the potential use of CBD in reducing anxiety. While the evidence is less advanced than that related to treating epilepsy, a growing body of research is dedicated to understanding how CBD can address the acute and long-term effects of anxiety disorders. Therefore, manufacturers must continue to invest in human studies to understand its true effects and benefits.

Addiction

The US has seen an unprecedented epidemic of opioid addiction in the last decade, yet few treatments for heroin use disorders are currently available. Several studies have suggested that consistently ingesting regulated amounts of CBD can help reduce withdrawal-induced cravings. As well as this, it can ease the restlessness, anxiety and irritability that come with transitioning away from substance abuse. 

Human studies are limited in this area, but the evidence we do have largely comes from randomized clinical trials. For example, a study of 42 participants who were either given a CBD medication or a placebo found that those receiving a non-psychoactive CBD treatment reported less craving after being exposed to drug cues than the placebo group. Individuals receiving CBD also reported less anxiety after exposure to drug cues than those receiving the placebo.

Antipsychotics

Psychotic disorders, such as Schizophrenia, cause hallucinations and delusions, distorting a person’s perceptions and thoughts. According to statistics, around 3% of people in the US experience at least one psychotic episode during their lives, and CBD is being touted as a potential treatment. 

While existing antipsychotics, such as Haloperidol, block dopamine receptors in the brain, CBD works partly by modulating the endocannabinoid system – a group of proteins and molecules produced in the human body responsible for many cellular and physiological functions.

Although scientific research has yet to result in a clinically approved CBD-based antipsychotic treatment, a growing body of animal and human studies are looking into its effects on the symptoms of psychotic conditions. 

Let’s take the time to reflect on existing evidence into medicinal uses for CBD and what further evidence is needed to ensure regulatory confidence and approval. With medicinal cannabis now approved for treating some of the most severe epileptic conditions, the door is open for its use in addressing many other disorders, including anxiety, depression, and the effects of substance abuse. 

For help developing your medicinal cannabis and CBD products, visit the Broughton website. 

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