There is urgent need for the development of mechanistically different and less side-effect prone antipsychotic compounds. The endocannabinoid system has been suggested to represent a potential new target in this indication. While the chronic use of cannabis itself has been considered a risk factor contributing to the development of schizophrenia, triggered by the phytocannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), cannabidiol, the second most important phytocannabinoid, appears to have no psychotomimetic potential. Although, results from animal studies are inconsistent to a certain extent and seem to depend on behavioral paradigms, treatment duration and experimental conditions applied, cannabidiol has shown antipsychotic properties in both rodents and rhesus monkeys. After some individual treatment attempts, the first randomized, double-blind controlled clinical trial demonstrated that in acute schizophrenia cannabidiol exerts antipsychotic properties comparable to the antipsychotic drug amisulpride while being accompanied by a superior, placebo-like side effect profile. As the clinical improvement by cannabidiol was significantly associated with elevated anandamide levels, it appears likely that its antipsychotic action is based on mechanisms associated with increased anandamide concentrations. Although, a plethora of mechanisms of action has been suggested, their potential relevance for the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol still needs to be investigated. The clarification of these mechanisms as well as the establishment of cannabidiol's antipsychotic efficacy and its hopefully benign side-effect profile remains the subject of a number of previously started clinical trials.
Keywords: CBD; animal models; clinical trials; psychosis; schizophrenia.