How Does Cannabis Impact Bipolar Disorder? Can you Treat Bipolar Disorder with CBD?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects approximately 1% of the Canadian population. Cannabis use appears to be relatively high among those diagnosed with the disorder, although opinions, and research results, are mixed in terms of whether or not it is an effective treatment. So, let’s talk about the relationship between cannabis and bipolar disorder, read the research, and determine whether or not cannabis can be used to treat bipolar disorder. 

Description of Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder experience periods of excitement, overactivity, delusions, and euphoria (known as mania) and periods of sadness and hopelessness (known as depression). 

There are three distinct types:

Bipolar I  Bipolar II  Cyclothymic disorder
A manic-depressive disorder that can exist both with and without psychotic episodes. Consists of depressive and manic episodes which alternate and are typically less severe. A cyclic disorder that causes brief episodes of hypomania and depression.

Symptoms of Mania and Depression associated with Bipolar Disorder

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM 5), to be diagnosed with mania or hypomania a person must have three of the following symptoms. And for depression, they must have five of the following symptoms. 

Mania/ Hypomania Depression 
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distracted easily
  • Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation
  • Engaging in activities that hold the potential for painful consequences, e.g., unrestrained buying sprees
  • Depressed mood most of the day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
  • Significant weight loss; decrease or increase in appetite
  • Engaging in purposeless movements, such as pacing
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or a suicide attempt

Read more about bipolar psychosis on HealthLine.

Traditional Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Treatment for bipolar disorder typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy. These medications typically include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, and anti-anxiety medication- all of which are accompanied by a number of side effects. 

Treating Bipolar Disorder with Cannabis

Cannabis, particularly CBD, has shown to be effective for treating other psychiatric conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. So, it would make sense that cannabis could be used for treating bipolar disorder. Even though many people diagnosed with bipolar disorder use cannabis it appears to be more complicated than that, particularly as it relates to psychosis. 

What the Research Says

We know that although cannabis can help manage anxiety it can also increase feelings of anxiety, particularly at high doses. We also know cannabis has the ability to create what some people call substance-induced psychosis – those times you’ve experienced a ‘bad trip’ and are overly anxious and/or paranoid. These types of situations can be problematic for those who are already susceptible to psychosis, like those with bipolar disorder.  

Some research that focuses on bipolar disorder specifically suggests cannabis could make manic symptoms worse or even increase the incidence of manic symptoms. Although other researchers found cannabis increased mood and did not see symptoms worsening

It’s interesting to note, that according to the NIDA, preliminary research indicates that particular genes are linked to psychosis and those who have this gene are at a higher risk. This indicates that potentially not all people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have the same risk level when it comes to experiencing psychosis which may impact the research results we’ve seen to date.

Is CBD better than THC for Treating Bipolar Disorder?

Since CBD is non-intoxicating and impacts the endocannabinoid system in different ways than THC, CBD has a higher potential for treating Bipolar Disorder. 

Although research specifically focused on CBD and Bipolar Disorder is still in its preliminary stages (current study in the works) the information we do have supports its use. 

Not only does CBD not induce psychosis it has antipsychotic effects, as well as anti-convulsant and anti-anxiety effects

That being said, CBD is not a replacement for getting mental health support and CBD should be used in conjunction with a treatment plan from a professional. In some cases, CBD is used when other treatment methods have failed. 

Final Thoughts

More research is necessary to understand the relationship between cannabinoids and bipolar disorder. CBD appears to be more effective in treating symptoms of bipolar disorder and is less likely to cause adverse effects. Though it’s important to remember that cannabinoids can have interactions with other medications, so if you’re considering adding CBD into your health regimen it can be helpful to speak with your doctor and/or mental health professional first. 

Are you diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and use cannabis? We want to hear from you! Let us know your experience, what cannabinoids you use, and how it helps with your systems! Comment, tag us on social media, or send us an email at support@missenvy.ca

 

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