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Brain stimulation seems to be a promising therapy for cannabis use disorder in patients suffering from schizophrenia


In a clinical research, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was related with a 60% decrease in cannabis consumption.

According to a CAMH-led research recently published in the journal NPJ Schizophrenia, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was related with a decrease in self-reported cannabis usage by up to 60% among adults with schizophrenia who had cannabis use disorder (CUD).

The double-blind trial is the first of its type to look at the efficacy of rTMS in treating CUD in persons with schizophrenia, and it was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the CAMH Foundation in the United States.

“When compared to the general population, persons with schizophrenia have extremely high rates of cannabis use disorder, and there is clear evidence that cannabis use affects psychiatric symptoms and quality of life in these patients,” stated senior author CAMH clinician scientist Dr. Tony George. “Despite the acknowledged risks, there is no authorized therapy for CUD with or without schizophrenia. These findings imply rTMS may be a safe and effective strategy to minimize cannabis among patients with schizophrenia.”

Until recently, brain stimulation methods such as rTMS were largely utilized to treat treatment-resistant depression. rTMS, on the other hand, has been shown in trials to be beneficial in lowering drug use and cravings for a variety of substance use disorders in the general population.

Participants in the study received rTMS therapy five times a week for four weeks at the Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention at CAMH, which targets the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is related with the brain’s reward system and executive function.

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When compared to controls who received sham rTMS, those who received rTMS reported a reduction in cannabis usage of up to 60% after 28 days, as well as reduced cravings.

One of the reasons there is presently no effective therapy for CUD in persons with schizophrenia, according to the authors, is because people with schizophrenia or other mental diseases are often excluded from CUD clinical trials. According to Dr. George, CAMH is particularly positioned to do this kind of research:

“In addition to our capacity to perform clinical studies with brain stimulation at the Temerty Centre, CAMH offers one of the biggest schizophrenia outpatient clinics in North America, as well as cutting-edge addiction treatment programs,” Dr. George said. “All of these characteristics combine to make CAMH one of the few sites in the world capable of leading a research like this.”

“Given the level of time commitment needed by patients, it was a tough research to recruit for,” stated study main author Dr. Karolina Kozak Bidzinski. “However, patients’ knowledge of the negative impact cannabis was having on their life, the projected advantages of lowering their usage, and seeing the numerous beneficial outcomes that would emerge during the experiment allowed such a large percentage of patients to finish the research. This study should pave the way for additional research into the effects of rTMS as a treatment for cannabis use disorder in people with schizophrenia.”

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