What is common between Noble laureate / Mathematician John Nash, Founder of the band Pink Floyd Syd Barrett and the famous Dutch painter Vincent Willem van Gogh? Besides being extremely gifted and accomplished, they all suffered from a chronic and severe mental disorder named Schizophrenia.
We have all heard of this illness and our understanding of this condition is influenced by the way it is grossly misrepresented by movies and works of fiction. It elicits a lot of fear and fascination. While some people fear that schizophrenic are violent and may cause harm, others think that sending them to an institution is the only cure. The fact of the matter is that like any other mental disorder the symptoms of schizophrenia can be treated with medication.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is defined as a mental disorder in which there are disturbances in thought (delusions), perceptions (hallucinations), behaviour (disjointed speech) and social interactions. It is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. In U.S alone mental and behavioural disorders account for 13.6 percent of total DALY’s (Disability-adjusted life years) according to the statistics released by National Institute of Mental Health.
Schizophrenia is characterised by symptoms such as:
- Failure to distinguish between perception and reality.
- Hallucinations which are visual (Seeing people), Auditory (Hearing voices), or related to taste, touch and the sense of smell.
- Suffering from delusions related to being persecuted or being victimized.
- Suffering from sexual and religious delusions.
- Speech which does not follow any logic or incoherent thoughts.
- Exhibiting social withdrawal, reticence, lack of self-care, emotionally distant and lack of motivation.
How is schizophrenia treated?
The treatment for schizophrenia is life-long, even when the symptoms have reduced. Anti-Psychotic drugs that can control dopamine and glutamate are the most preferred course of medication.
These are usually combined with psycho social therapy (family therapy, individual counselling, rehabilitation and employment support) and other drugs such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication.
The medication used for treatment of these symptoms has some significant side-effects such as:
- Weight Gain or loss
- Changes in vision
- Severe headaches
- Light-headedness or breathlessness
- Erratic Mood Swings
- Insomnia, loss of appetite
- Spasms, stiffness, twitches and tics.
- Issues with sexual health.
Research shows that a whopping 86.19% of people experience at least one of the above mentioned side affects prompting them to stop taking medication. Only 42.5% of the patients reported total adherence to the medication. These side effects prevent people from taking their medication diligently, thereby leading to worsening of symptoms overtime.
Cannabidiol(CBD), a compound found in the cannabis plant is now considered as a potential anti psychotic drug that is extremely safe and reliable and most significantly has minimal side-effects.
CBD to the rescue?
Scientists have so far been unable to pinpoint the exact physiological causes of this illness. What we definitively know is that irregularities in the functioning of neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate can cause schizophrenia. Drug abuse is also considered a major contributing factor for people with an earlier family history of psychosis.
One reason that CBD is useful in treating Schizophrenia is that it can optimise the working of the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) that regulates the reward-processing mechanism and other key functions; another important property of CBD is that it can alleviate symptoms of psychosis.
Studies conducted on both animals and humans have shown that CBD has anti-psychotic properties. In a group trial, patients were given 1000 mg/day of CBD or placebo in a randomized 1:1 ratio, along with their anti psychotic medication. The patients who took CBD had lower levels of symptoms, had shown improvement and considered not severely unwell by their doctor.
It also has minimal side-effects and is well – tolerated even in high dosages.
Pharmaceutical options fail when it comes to treating negative symptoms of schizophrenia namely social withdrawal, emotional blunting, and reticence. CBD on the other hand is beneficial in improving these cognitive malfunctions.
How can I use CBD?
However the right dosage is extremely crucial to optimise the experience. It is advisable to consult a doctor for the ideal dosage.
Is it safe?
Studies confirm that CBD oils are safe for consumption; however these may have minor side effects such as tiredness, drowsiness, diarrhoea or change in appetite. One golden rule is to start with low doses and see how your body responds to it. You may increase or reduce the dosage as needed. In states where it’s legal, you can also consult your doctor to arrive at the ideal dosage.
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