Therapeutic Effects of Prolonged Cannabidiol Treatment on Psychological Symptoms and Cognitive Function in Regular Cannabis Users: A Pragmatic Open-Label Clinical Trial

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018 Mar 1;3(1):21-34. doi: 10.1089/can.2017.0043. eCollection 2018.


Introduction: Chronic cannabis use has been associated with impaired cognition and elevated psychological symptoms, particularly psychotic-like experiences. While Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is thought to be primarily responsible for these deleterious effects, cannabidiol (CBD) is purported to have antipsychotic properties and to ameliorate cognitive, symptomatic, and brain harms in cannabis users. However, this has never been tested in a prolonged administration trial in otherwise healthy cannabis users. Here, we report the first study of prolonged CBD administration to a community sample of regular cannabis users in a pragmatic trial investigating potential restorative effects of CBD on psychological symptoms and cognition. Materials and Methods: Twenty frequent cannabis users (16 male, median age 25 years) underwent a 10-week open-label trial of 200 mg of daily oral CBD treatment, while continuing to use cannabis as usual. The majority of participants were daily cannabis users who had used cannabis for several years (median 5.5 years of regular use). Participants underwent psychological and cognitive assessments at baseline (BL) and post-treatment (PT) and were monitored weekly throughout the trial. Results: CBD was well tolerated with no reported side effects; however, participants retrospectively reported reduced euphoria when smoking cannabis. No impairments to cognition were found, nor were there deleterious effects on psychological function. Importantly, participants reported significantly fewer depressive and psychotic-like symptoms at PT relative to BL, and exhibited improvements in attentional switching, verbal learning, and memory. Increased plasma CBD concentrations were associated with improvements in attentional control and beneficial changes in psychological symptoms. Greater benefits were observed in dependent than in nondependent cannabis users. Conclusions: Prolonged CBD treatment appears to have promising therapeutic effects for improving psychological symptoms and cognition in regular cannabis users. Our findings require replication given the lack of a placebo control in this pragmatic trial, but suggest that CBD may be a useful adjunct treatment for cannabis dependence.

Keywords: attention; cannabidiol; cannabis; memory; psychological symptoms.