Article Text

Download PDFPDF
3 The emerging role of cannabis therapeutics in psychiatry
  1. H Valerie Curran
  1. Professor of Psychopharmacology, Director, Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, University College London


Val Curran is Director and Founder of the UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at UCL, Professor of Psychopharmacology, a founding member of the charity DrugScience, Research Lead at a London NHS Drug Service and an advisor to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform. Her research focuses on the short- and long-term effects of drugs on our mood, thought processes, memory and the brain. Her research is funded mainly by the Medical Research Council. Val’s work spans drugs used in medical treatments, drugs used recreationally and some drugs (e.g. cannabinoids, ketamine, opiates) used in both contexts. Currently she is running several projects on cannabinoids including their differential effects on adolescents compared with adults; the use of cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment for cannabis addiction and other potential medical uses of cannabinoids. Val’s cannabis research formed the basis of the Channel 4 documentary: Drugs Live: Cannabis on Trial.

Cannabis contains over 140 unique ‘cannabinoids’ and levels of these vary in different types of cannabis. Research to date has focussed on just two of these cannabinoids:

Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). We have shown that this variation can influence the effects of cannabis and people’s vulnerability to experiencing mental health problems such as addiction and psychosis. On the opposite side of the coin, THC and CBD and their combination are emerging as potential treatments for some mental health problems. Cannabis based medicines can now be prescribed in the UK, although hardly any patients have yet received these treatments on the NHS. This talk will summarise relevant background research in experimental medicine before presenting new data from a recent RCT of the effects of different doses of CBD for treating cannabis use disorder. I will argue that research on cannabinoids is not only about the ‘cause or cure’ of mental health problems; critically, we should emphasise prevention as a key approach which will require politicians to take evidence-based decisions on UK drug policy.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.