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Keywords:

  • Anxiety;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • cannabis;
  • initial prodromal state;
  • major depression;
  • schizophrenia

ABSTRACT

Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, a growing body of psychiatric research has emerged focusing on the role of this system in major psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia (SCZ), bipolar disorder (BD), major depression and anxiety disorder. Continuing in the line of earlier epidemiological studies, recent replication studies indicate that frequent cannabis use doubles the risk for psychotic symptoms and SCZ. Further points of clinical research interest are alterations of endocannabinoids and their relation to symptoms as well as postmortem analyses of cannabinoid CB1 receptor densities in SCZ. A possible neurobiological mechanism for the deleterious influence of cannabis use in SCZ has been suggested, involving the disruption of endogenous cannabinoid signaling and functioning. Even though the number of studies is still limited for affective and anxiety disorders, previous results suggest these diseases to be exciting objectives of cannabinoid-associated research. Therefore, it became apparent that cannabis use is not only frequent in patients suffering from BD, but that it also induces manic symptoms in this group. In addition, prior antipsychotic treatment decreased the numerical density of CB1 immunoreactive glial cells in bipolar patients. Although the data on the influence of cannabis use on the development of major depression is controversial, cannabinoid compounds could display a new class of medication, as suggested by the antidepressive effects of the fatty acid amino hydrolase inhibitor URB597 in animal models. With numerous open questions and controversial results, further research is required to specify and extend the findings in this area, which provides a promising target for novel pharmacotherapeutic interventions.