New research in marijuana cultivation has pointed to a link between the absence of the cannabidol compound (CBD) in certain strains of skunk weed and the development of psychosis. The elimination of CBD through selective breeding increases the THC content, which may play a key role in the development of psychosis. Studies on the role of these two compounds have shown that "pure synthetic THC causes transient psychosis in 40 to 50 percent of healthy people. In stark contrast to THC, CBD appears to have an anti-psychotic effect."
A study by the Institute of Psychiatry in London, which was published by Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers used "functional MRI brain scanning to study the effects of THC and CBD on the brains of healthy volunteers. They found that THC and CBD acted in opposition; in brain regions where THC increased neural activity from baseline, CBD decreased." Further studies showed that the inverse was also true–an increase in CBD meant a decrease in THC.
An additional study compared the effects of a mix of synthetic THC and CBD with THC on its own. The molecules were given intravenously, and the subjects were given the same dose of THC, the only difference being those that received the CBD balancer. After thirty minutes, the subjects were interviewed, and researchers found that those given both the THC and CBD formula were significantly less psychotic than those given THC alone.
These studies raise important questions about the potential for marijuana strain refinement, but also as to whether or not CBD's can be made into a useful antipsychotic on their own. The Beckley Foundation is setting up a research project that "will analyze different strains of cannabis for their THC and CBD content," in hopes of spreading more awareness about safe marijuana strains. The Foundation sees this issue as another example for the need to regulate the recreational cannabis market in order to prevent possible harmful effects caused by the skunk strain–the dominance of which is a result of the illegal drug markets' tendency towards higher potencies.
Image: "Haze" by Fabim_2007 on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.