Children as young as 12 who suffer from anxiety and other mental-health issues may soon undergo the treatment of medicinal cannabis in a world-first Australian study.
Psychiatrist and Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry has been given private philanthropic funding to commence a trial with mentally unwell young Australians aged 12-25 through Headspace centres.
Anxious and depressive participants who have not typically responded to traditional methods will receive two to four powder capsules of cannabidiol daily.
The capsules, which contain the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, will be administered over a 12-week period.
Cannabidiol has previously been proven an effective method of treating anxiety and depression in adults, according to results from European studies. It works by interacting with brain receptors to regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviours.
Professor McGorry’s trial will be the first to study if similar results are found in youths. He insists that alternatives to antidepressants are in desperate need.
“We know that in at least 50 per cent of cases where young people are prescribed antidepressants that they don’t actually work,” McGorry told News Corp Australia.
“We need to get innovative and look at alternative therapies to help reduce this burden that is growing among our youth.”
Previous studies of cannabidiol in mice have found no changes to appetite, blood pressure, body temperature and psychological functions.
While the professor says he understands that cannabis treatments are considered controversial, he reassures that cannabidiol is the “safest part of medicinal cannabis”.
“Also it’s important to remember that this wouldn’t be the first line of treatment,” he says.
“It would be for people who haven’t had success with traditional therapies.”
The first-of-its-kind trial will commence in June.