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Cognitive & Neurobiological Processes

Does CBD inhibit paranoia and anxiety

Does CBD inhibit paranoia and anxiety in participants scoring high for trait paranoia?


Our work focuses on the effects of cannabinoid molecules in man. The wider context is that cannabis use is associated with psychotic illness. The molecule delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is responsible for the major psychological effects of cannabis, including acute psychotic-like experiences. In contrast, cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) are showing some promise as medicines in psychiatry [Murray et al (2007) Nature Rev Neuroscience 8:885].

Why are we doing this research?

There are claims that CBD can inhibit both anxiety and psychotic symptoms. However, the evidence base on which this rests is small. Here we make use of a 3D-virtual-reality (VR) paradigm [Freeman et al (2008) Br J Psychiatry 192:258], which ensures that the experimental conditions are clamped between CBD and placebo sessions. The VR re-creates a trip on a London underground and is designed to ‘immerse’ the subject in the situation. Avatars are programmed to respond to the subject, smiling or looking in their direction and the sounds of an underground carriage are simulated. Psychopathology is sampled over the course of the experiment.

What are we doing?

This is a collaboration between the Department of Psychiatry in Oxford (Professor Daniel Freeman) and the Institute of Psychiatry. We aim to recruit and test 40 subjects, who score high on the Green-Scale of paranoia. The dose of CBD is 600mg, delivered by capsule 3 hours before testing. In addition to VR, stress-reactivity is assayed by measuring cortisol concentrations. The data collection phase started in October 2011, ends April 2012.

Who is involved?

Harneet Hundal, Rachel Lister, Nicole Butcher, Paul Morrison, Robin Murray, Shitij Kapur, Phillip McGuire, Daniel Freeman.

Who funds the study?

The Beckley Foundation & the BMA.


Dr Harneet Hundal

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