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Pharmacological properties of cannabidiol in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a critical overview

  • G. M. Mandolini (a1), M. Lazzaretti (a1), A. Pigoni (a1), L. Oldani (a1), G. Delvecchio (a2) and P. Brambilla (a2) (a3)...


Cannabidiol (CBD) represents a new promising drug due to a wide spectrum of pharmacological actions. In order to relate CBD clinical efficacy to its pharmacological mechanisms of action, we performed a bibliographic search on PUBMED about all clinical studies investigating the use of CBD as a treatment of psychiatric symptoms. Findings to date suggest that (a) CBD may exert antipsychotic effects in schizophrenia mainly through facilitation of endocannabinoid signalling and cannabinoid receptor type 1 antagonism; (b) CBD administration may exhibit acute anxiolytic effects in patients with generalised social anxiety disorder through modification of cerebral blood flow in specific brain sites and serotonin 1A receptor agonism; (c) CBD may reduce withdrawal symptoms and cannabis/tobacco dependence through modulation of endocannabinoid, serotoninergic and glutamatergic systems; (d) the preclinical pro-cognitive effects of CBD still lack significant results in psychiatric disorders. In conclusion, current evidences suggest that CBD has the ability to reduce psychotic, anxiety and withdrawal symptoms by means of several hypothesised pharmacological properties. However, further studies should include larger randomised controlled samples and investigate the impact of CBD on biological measures in order to correlate CBD's clinical effects to potential modifications of neurotransmitters signalling and structural and functional cerebral changes.

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Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Paolo Brambilla, Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, via F. Sforza 35, 20122 Milan, Italy. (Email:


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This Section of Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences appears in each issue of the Journal to stress the relevance of epidemiology for behavioral neurosciences, reporting the results of studies that explore the use of an epidemiological approach to provide a better understanding of the neural basis of major psychiatric disorders and, in turn, the utilisation of the behavioural neurosciences for promoting innovative epidemiological research.

The ultimate aim is to help the translation of most relevant research findings into every-day clinical practice. These contributions are written in house by the journal's editorial team or commissioned by the Section Editor (no more than 1000 words, short unstructured abstract, 4 key-words, one Table or Figure and up to ten references).

Paolo Brambilla, Section Editor



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