Scientists are launching a new global study to see whether cannabidiol (CBD) can treat people with psychosis or psychotic symptoms.
CBD is currently only perscribed on the NHS for children and adults with rare, severe epilepsy and adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy.
Oxford University’s department of psychiatry has been awarded £16.5m by charitable foundation Wellcome to launch a clinical trial later this year.
Entitled the Stratification and Treatment in Early Psychosis (Step) programme, it will be led by Professor Philip McGuire at Oxford and involve 1,000 people, including those at clinically high risk of psychosis, people with a first episode of psychosis and patients with psychosis who have not responded to conventional treatment.
The study will use Epidyolex, a form of CBD which is approved for some children and adults with epilepsy. Jazz Pharmaceuticals will supply the CBD for the study at no cost.
The programme will involve 35 centres, mainly in Europe and North America, and will be coordinated from Oxford.
CBD is a chemical found in marijuana, but it does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient in marijuana which produces a feeling of being high.
Prof McGuire said the study will also investigate whether cannabidiol can prevent the onset of psychosis in people at high risk of developing it.
He continued: “Cannabidiol is one of the most promising new treatments for people with psychosis. Many people with psychosis are open to trying cannabidiol and previous smaller-scale studies have indicated that it has beneficial effects.
“This study could provide us with a new kind of treatment for psychosis and we are hugely grateful to Wellcome and Jazz Pharmaceuticals for helping to make it happen.”