Medicinal marijuana continues to be a contentious debate, but now a compound found in Marijuana could soon be tested on young Australians to prevent and treat psychosis
European researchers have suggested it could treat schizophrenia and be much more effective than other drugs by having fewer side effects.
It comes as pressure continues to mount on state and federal governments in Australia to legalise the drug for medicinal purposes.
Leading psychiatrist and mental health advocate Patrick McGorry told The Age, that one part of the drug was showing promise as an anti-psychotic medicine.
Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry (pictured) says one part of marijuana is showing promise as an anti-psychotic medicine
The director of Orygen Youth Health Research Centre and 2010 Australian of the year said while tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis was widely thought to be dangerous and increase the risk of psychosis in about 10 per cent to 20 per cent of people, another component – cannabidiol (CBD) – appeared to relieve psychosis, depression and anxiety.
McGorry’s team are hoping to trial pharmaceutical CBD in young people showing signs of early psychosis to see how it compared to other antipsychotic medications, which often cause undesirable side effects.
‘There’s been a lot more concern in recent times about antipsychotic medication. Obviously it’s really effective, but the longer term side effects are worrying people, especially weight gain and metabolic problems,’ Professor McGorry told The Age.
‘People are willing to try more experimental treatments that have got some promise and cannabidiol is definitely one of those.’
There’s hope to commence a new trial soon with an application already in for government funding.
McGorry does believe the plant possesses both bad and good qualities, saying they should not be confused.
‘We’re definitely not saying smoke dope to treat psychosis,’ he said. He suggests if a trial were to be set up it would only involve the compound CBD.
Cannabis expert, Jan Copeland has given her support to more studies of CBD being used for people with early stage psychosis.
The director of the University of NSW’s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre described CBD as a ‘very interesting part of the complex cannabis chemistry’ that does not get people stoned, but rather appears to balance the effects of THC, which makes some people anxious.
She also told The Age, ‘there was a small, but growing number of studies suggesting CBD relieved psychosis, anxiety and insomnia, and that her team was trialling it in about 10 people withdrawing from cannabis use to see if it helped them through the process.’
But the search for CBD in street cannabis hasn’t been encouraged.
‘It has high levels of THC, around 15 per cent now, but almost no CBD, so it’s definitely not the same thing as smoking cannabis,’ she said.
In July, market researchers, Reach tel, conducted a survey of more than 3,000 Australia’s asking them the question : Do you support the legislation of cannabis for medicinal purposes?
The majority would support the move at 65.9 percent, 14.4 percent said they would oppose the legislation and 19.7 percent were undecided on the issue.