Mood and Marijuana: Is Cannabis a Key to Treating Bipolar Disorder?


If you or someone you know is suffering from bipolar disorder, the search for treatments to manage the mental disorder may lead you to consider cannabis as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical drugs. But what does science say about using medical marijuana for bipolar disorder treatment?

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Per NIH, nearly 5 percent of Americans, at some time in their lives, experience bipolar disorder which is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Typically, treatment for the condition includes a combination of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.

Now, with the legalization of marijuana for medical use in some states, there’s more conversation about how cannabis affects the brain, and whether it might be useful in treating certain mental conditions, like bipolar disorder. However, the answer is not so cut and dry.

While some research credits cannabis use with a decrease in the psychotic symptoms that are associated with bipolar disorder, other studies suggest it may actually worsen the symptoms of the mental condition.

Medical Marijuana for Bipolar Disorder May Help Symptoms

While there is yet to be a definitive answer on whether or not medical marijuana for bipolar disorder is beneficial for those suffering from the condition, there is growing evidence that shows cannabis may help patients manage some or all of their symptoms of a manic or depressive episode.

In a 1998 study, researchers found that using cannabis improved cognitive function in some patients, with some even reporting that it worked better than conventional drugs, such as lithium, to treat their mania and depression.

The claim that marijuana may help control certain symptoms of bipolar disorder was backed up by a2016 study in PLOS that suggested bipolar participants who regularly smoked cannabis reported notable reductions in mood symptoms each time they medicated with cannabis.

Treating Bipolar Disorder with Cannabis May Worsen the Condition

While some research points to medical marijuana for bipolar disorder as helpful in managing some symptoms, it may worsen the condition suggests a 2015 study that linked cannabis use to an increase of depressive symptoms in bipolar patients, as well as a higher occurrence of manic episodes.

Using cannabis may also cause psychosis to develop sooner in patients already predisposed to developing it, found an Australian paper published in JAMA. In the study, researchers analyzed over 20,000 patients and found that marijuana users experienced psychosis about three years younger than non-users.

This finding is an important breakthrough in our understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis.

“This finding is an important breakthrough in our understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis,” said the study’s authors. “It raises the question of whether those substance users would still have gone on to develop psychosis a few years later.”

CBD Oil for Bipolar Disorder

Although science has yet to decide whether medical marijuana for bipolar disorder is beneficial or detrimental for patients, it is proven that cannabidiol (CBD) can have anti-psychotic benefits in humans.

CBD also may be key in fighting the depression that often accompanies bipolar disorder. Because of its hypnotic, anti-convulsive, neuroprotective, and anti-stress benefits, some studies suggest that CBD may be useful as an alternative to antidepressants in effectively trating the mental condition.


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