On May 4th of this year, The Journal of Neuroscience published an article (found here) with the tongue-exercising title Cannabidiol Counteracts Amphetamine-Induced Neuronal and Behavioural Sensitization through a Novel mTOR/p70S6 Kinase Signalling Pathway.

Tucked into the Abstract of the report was this astonishing statement: “The cannabis-derived phytochemical, cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have pharmacotherapeutic efficacy for the treatment of schizophrenia.”

Although the paper included absolutely no speculation on how CBD might produce the antipsychotic effects, the evidence that it does accords with other reports of CBD countering the consciousness-altering effects of the other cannabinoid most prevalent in cannabis: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). (Indeed, this contention has recently resulted in a major shift in the development of cannabis strains. For years, many cultivators have directed their efforts to producing strains with higher and higher percentages of THC, along with a corresponding reduction in CBD. Now, as patients learn and experience more, the demand for strains with equal or higher levels of CBD to THC has increased significantly.)

Again we witness the extraordinary complexity of the cannabis plant and its potential as medicine. Earlier research has suggested a causal relationship between heavy use of cannabis in adolescence and a subsequent higher incidence of adult schizophrenia. Here we have a study indicating that a compound from the exact same plant may have properties that counteract symptoms of the disease. Is it possible a single plant can do both?

The role that cannabis may play in reducing the suffering caused by mental illness is tantalizing. Studies are now underway to investigate the use of cannabis in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) depression and addiction, among others. While the pace of such research can be discouraging, the potential of finding safe, effective and economical medicine makes such efforts altogether worthwhile.