The endocannabinoid system in mental disorders: Evidence from human brain studies.

Biochemical Pharmacology

“Mental disorders have a high prevalence compared with many other health conditions and are the leading cause of disability worldwide. Several studies performed in the last years support the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the etiopathogenesis of different mental disorders.

The present review will summarize the latest information on the role of the endocannabinoid system in psychiatric disorders, specifically depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. We will focus on the findings from human brain studies regarding alterations in endocannabinoid levels, cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoid metabolizing enzymes in patients suffering mental disorders.

Studies carried out in humans have consistently demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system is fundamental for emotional homeostasis and cognitive function. Thus, deregulation of the different elements that are part of the endocannabinoid system may contribute to the pathophysiology of several mental disorders. However, the results reported are controversial. In this sense, different alterations in gene and/or protein expression of CB1 receptors have been shown depending on the technical approach used or the brain region studied.

Despite the current discrepancies regarding cannabinoid receptors changes in depression and schizophrenia, present findings point to the endocannabinoid system as a pivotal neuromodulatory pathway relevant in the pathophysiology of mental disorders.

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Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Pathophysiology of Schizophrenia: Implications for Pharmacological Intervention.

 

“The term schizophrenia describes a group of multifaceted psychiatric conditions causing significant impairment of the quality of life of affected patients. Although multiple pharmacological treatment options exist, e.g. first- or second-generation antipsychotics, these therapeutics often cause disturbing side effects, such as extrapyramidal symptoms, prolactin increase, sexual dysfunction and/or metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, cognitive impairments and negative symptoms, two factors significantly influencing the course and outcome, are not sufficiently addressed by the available antipsychotics.

Since its discovery, multiple clinical and preclinical studies have linked the endocannabinoid system to schizophrenia.

Both the endocannabinoid anandamide and the cannabinoid CB1 receptor are deeply linked to underlying disease processes. Based hereon, clinical trials in schizophrenia have explored cannabidiol, a primary component of Cannabis sativa, and rimonabant, a partial antagonist to the CB1 receptor.

While the latter did not reveal positive results, cannabidiol significantly ameliorated psychotic symptoms, which was associated with an increase in anandamide serum levels. However, the exact mechanisms of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol are not fully understood, and, furthermore, only a limited number of clinical trials in humans have been concluded to date.

Thus, the level of proof of safety and efficacy required to approve the therapeutic use of cannabidiol in schizophrenia is currently lacking. However, cannabidiol is a promising candidate as an effective and mechanistically different antipsychotic treatment with a favourable side-effect profile. We therefore conclude that further studies are urgently needed to clarify the antipsychotic effects and safety profile of cannabidiol, and to fully explore its potential antipsychotic mechanism.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30022465

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40263-018-0539-z

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Cannabidiol does not display drug abuse potential in mice behavior.

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“Recent evidence suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may be useful for the treatment of different neuropsychiatric disorders.

However, some controversy regarding its profile as a drug of abuse hampers the further development of basic and clinical studies.

In this study, the behavioral profile of CBD as a potential drug of abuse was evaluated in C57BL/6J mice.

Taken together, these results show that CBD lacks activity as a drug of abuse and should stimulate the development of the basic and clinical studies needed to elucidate its potential therapeutic use for the treatment of neuropsychiatric and drug use disorders.”

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Evidence for the use of “medical marijuana” in psychiatric and neurologic disorders.

College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists

“Cannabis is listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, meaning the US federal government defines it as an illegal drug that has high potential for abuse and no established medical use; however, half of the states in the nation have enacted “medical marijuana” (MM) laws. Clinicians must be aware of the evidence for and against the use of MM in their patients who may consider using this substance.

RESULTS:

Publications were identified that included patients with dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, schizophrenia, social anxiety disorder, depression, tobacco use disorder, and neuropathic pain.

DISCUSSION:

There is great variety concerning which medical conditions are approved for treatment with MM for either palliative or therapeutic benefit, depending on the state law. It is important to keep an evidence-based approach in mind, even with substances considered to be illegal under US federal law. Clinicians must weigh risks and benefits of the use of MM in their patients and should ensure that patients have tried other treatment modalities with higher levels of evidence for use when available and appropriate.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29955495

““Medical marijuana” encompasses everything from whole-plant cannabis to synthetic cannabinoids available for commercial use approved by regulatory agencies. In determining whether MM is of clinical utility to our patients, it is important to keep in mind chemical constituents, dose, delivery, and indication. Selection of the patient appropriate for MM must be carefully considered because clinical guidelines and treatment options with stronger levels of evidence should be exhausted first in most cases. There seems to be strongest evidence for the use of MM in patients with MS and in patients with neuropathic pain; moderate evidence exists to support further research in social anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, PD, and tobacco use disorder; evidence is limited for use in patients with dementia, Huntington disease, depression, and anorexia.”

http://mhc.cpnp.org/doi/10.9740/mhc.2017.01.029?code=cpnp-site

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Probing the endocannabinoid system in healthy volunteers: Cannabidiol alters fronto-striatal resting-state connectivity.

European Neuropsychopharmacology Home

“Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are two substances from cannabis sativa that have been implicated in the treatment of mental and neurological disorders.

We concentrated on a previously validated neuroimaging phenotype, fronto-striatal connectivity across different striatal seeds, because of this loop’s relevance to executive functioning, decision making, salience generation and motivation and its link to various neuropsychiatric conditions. Therefore, we studied the effect of THC and CBD on fronto-striatal circuitry by a seed-voxel connectivity approach using seeds from the caudate and the putamen.

We conducted a cross-over pharmaco-fMRI study in 16 healthy male volunteers with placebo, 10 mg oral THC and 600 mg oral CBD. Resting state was measured in a 3 T scanner. CBD lead to an increase of fronto-striatal connectivity in comparison to placebo.

In contrast to our expectation that THC and CBD show opposing effects, THC versus placebo did not show any significant effects, probably due to insufficient concentration of THC during scanning.

The effect of CBD on enhancing fronto-striatal connectivity is of interest because it might be a neural correlate of its anti-psychotic effect in patients.”

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Cannabidiol effects on prepulse inhibition in nonhuman primates.

 

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“Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of acoustic startle reflex is a well-established behavior paradigm to measure sensorimotor gating deficits. PPI is disrupted in several neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. PPI tests can be used to screen new drugs for treatment of such disorders.

In this review, we discuss how PPI paradigm can help in screening the therapeutic effects of cannabidiol (CBD).

We look into recent literature about CBD effects on PPI response in animal models, especially in nonhuman primates. CBD has been shown to modify PPI in N-methyl d-aspartate receptor antagonist models for schizophrenia, both in rodents and in nonhuman primates.

These results show CBD as a potential drug for the treatment of neurologic disorders that present alterations in sensorimotor system, such as schizophrenia. Moreover, the PPI paradigm seems to be a useful and relative simple paradigm to test the efficacy of CBD as a potential therapeutic drug.”

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Pharmacological properties of cannabidiol in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a critical overview.

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“Cannabidiol (CBD) represents a new promising drug due to a wide spectrum of pharmacological actions. In order to relate CBD clinical efficacy to its pharmacological mechanisms of action, we performed a bibliographic search on PUBMED about all clinical studies investigating the use of CBD as a treatment of psychiatric symptoms.

Findings to date suggest that (a) CBD may exert antipsychotic effects in schizophrenia mainly through facilitation of endocannabinoid signalling and cannabinoid receptor type 1 antagonism; (b) CBD administration may exhibit acute anxiolytic effects in patients with generalised social anxiety disorder through modification of cerebral blood flow in specific brain sites and serotonin 1A receptor agonism; (c) CBD may reduce withdrawal symptoms and cannabis/tobacco dependence through modulation of endocannabinoid, serotoninergic and glutamatergic systems; (d) the preclinical pro-cognitive effects of CBD still lack significant results in psychiatric disorders.

In conclusion, current evidences suggest that CBD has the ability to reduce psychotic, anxiety and withdrawal symptoms by means of several hypothesised pharmacological properties. However, further studies should include larger randomised controlled samples and investigate the impact of CBD on biological measures in order to correlate CBD’s clinical effects to potential modifications of neurotransmitters signalling and structural and functional cerebral changes.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29789034

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/epidemiology-and-psychiatric-sciences/article/pharmacological-properties-of-cannabidiol-in-the-treatment-of-psychiatric-disorders-a-critical-overview/D7FD68F40CF30CBB48A1025C66873F26

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Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids.

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“Numerous physical, psychological, and emotional benefits have been attributed to marijuana since its first reported use in 2,600 BC in a Chinese pharmacopoeia. The phytocannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD), and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) are the most studied extracts from cannabis sativa subspecies hemp and marijuana. CBD and Δ9-THC interact uniquely with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Through direct and indirect actions, intrinsic endocannabinoids and plant-based phytocannabinoids modulate and influence a variety of physiological systems influenced by the ECS.

METHODS:

In 1980, Cunha et al. reported anticonvulsant benefits in 7/8 subjects with medically uncontrolled epilepsy using marijuana extracts in a phase I clinical trial. Since then neurological applications have been the major focus of renewed research using medical marijuana and phytocannabinoid extracts.

RESULTS:

Recent neurological uses include adjunctive treatment for malignant brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, and the childhood seizure disorders Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes. In addition, psychiatric and mood disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, addiction, postconcussion syndrome, and posttraumatic stress disorders are being studied using phytocannabinoids.

CONCLUSIONS:

In this review we will provide animal and human research data on the current clinical neurological uses for CBD individually and in combination with Δ9-THC. We will emphasize the neuroprotective, antiinflammatory, and immunomodulatory benefits of phytocannabinoids and their applications in various clinical syndromes.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29770251

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/

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A Critical Systematic Review of Evidence for Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Schizophrenia

Psychiatric Annals

“Cannabinoids have an emerging evidence base as an effective treatment option in a number of medical conditions, including anorexia and intractable vomiting.

It is well known that patients with schizophrenia are more likely to use cannabis; it has also been argued that this could be a way of self-treating adverse side effects (secondary to antipsychotics) in a group of people with schizophrenia. Therefore, studies have attempted to examine the use of cannabinoids in schizophrenia.

Given the recent interest in the use of cannabinoids in general and the ensuing ethical debates, we systematically review the available literature on the use of four cannabinoids, namely delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, dronabinol, rimonabant, and cannabidiol, in the management of schizophrenia. We also offer suggestions for future research in this area.”

https://www.healio.com/psychiatry/journals/psycann/2018-5-48-5/%7B04639e36-7fd1-4e31-aff2-7cea85ea3bc3%7D/a-critical-systematic-review-of-evidence-for-cannabinoids-in-the-treatment-of-schizophrenia

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Prolonged Cannabidiol Treatment Effects on Hippocampal Subfield Volumes in Current Cannabis Users.

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research cover image

“Chronic cannabis use is associated with neuroanatomical alterations in the hippocampus. While adverse impacts of cannabis use are generally attributed to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, emerging naturalistic evidence suggests cannabidiol (CBD) is neuroprotective and may ameliorate brain harms associated with cannabis use, including protection from hippocampal volume loss. This study examined whether prolonged administration of CBD to regular cannabis users within the community could reverse or reduce the characteristic hippocampal harms associated with chronic cannabis use.

Results: No change was observed in left or right hippocampus as a whole. However, left subicular complex (parasubiculum, presubiculum, and subiculum) volume significantly increased from baseline to post-treatment (p=0.017 uncorrected) by 1.58% (Cohen’s d=0.63; 2.83% in parasubiculum). Heavy cannabis users demonstrated marked growth in the left subicular complex, predominantly within the presubiculum, and right cornu ammonis (CA)1 compared to lighter users. Associations between greater right subicular complex and total hippocampal volume and higher plasma CBD concentration were evident, particularly in heavy users.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a restorative effect of CBD on the subicular and CA1 subfields in current cannabis users, especially those with greater lifetime exposure to cannabis. While replication is required in a larger, placebo-controlled trial, these findings support a protective role of CBD against brain structural harms conferred by chronic cannabis use. Furthermore, these outcomes suggest that CBD may be a useful adjunct in treatments for cannabis dependence and may be therapeutic for a range of clinical disorders characterized by hippocampal pathology (e.g., schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and major depressive disorder).”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29682609

“In conclusion, our findings are the first to demonstrate an ameliorating effect of CBD treatment upon brain structural harms characteristic of regular cannabis use. Furthermore, these results speak to the potential for CBD treatment to restore hippocampal pathology in a range of clinical populations (e.g., schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and major depressive disorder).”

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2017.0047

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