Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder

Mental Health: Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder

There’s a lot of buzz these days to find the link between cannabis and bipolar disorder. Evidence suggests cannabis has been helpful for patients with bipolar disorders, while other research suggests it may be detrimental.

So, what exactly is the relationship between cannabis and bipolar disorder? Can cannabis treat bipolar disorder? What is the usefulness of marijuana as medicine for this disease? We will address all this and more in the coming paragraphs.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

According to the World Health Organization, Bipolar disorder, or BPD is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood shifts, change in the energy and physical activity level.

Those suffering from it experience alternating “highs” and “lows”– also referred to as mania and depression. Hence, bipolar disorder is also known as “manic depression.” Mania and depression are periodic and vary from person to person.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Those with bipolar disorder report feeling happy or sad, irritated, hyperactive, or completely dull. Episodes of mania and depression may be brief; lasting from a few hours to few days, or up to months.

Hence, bipolar disorder may disturb the daily routine of the patient, inhibiting them from performing the daily tasks effectively.

Along with brief episodes of depression, patients of bipolar disorder may experience the symptoms of psychosis. Some of the symptoms include

  • Hallucinations –seeing or hearing things or people that are not present there
  • Delusions –believing something that is not true or does not exist

Traditional Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the root cause of the bipolar disorder is yet to be discovered, but it is treatable.

Prescription medications combined with therapy may help manage the mood swings associated with BPD.

Most commonly, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and anti-depressants are used for the treatment of bipolar disorder.  Therapies that may help include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal or family-focused therapy, or psycho-education.

Cannabis and Bi-Polar Disorder – Is There a Relation?

Scientific evidence suggests that cannabis may help certain mental illnesses.  For instance, using cannabis may help reduce the pain of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or multiple sclerosis (MS). But, does cannabis help people with Bipolar disorder?

While bipolar disorder is overwhelming and a lifetime condition, we know it is treatable. Essentially, cannabis can relax the nerves of the human brain, and this may help people with bipolar disorder to relieve stress and manic symptoms.

Can Cannabis Help in Treating Bi-Polar Disorders?

The endocannabinoid system is a center of complex interactions regulating the human mood, thought, and behavior. It also communicates with our defense mechanism and inflammatory responses, among many others.

Cannabis may prove beneficial in treating people with bipolar disorder and may relieve you of anxiety. Not to mention, bipolar disorders are linked to mood swings, and cannabis may improve the mood. Some studies have found that marijuana consumption has no harmful effects; rather, it’s beneficial.

Cannabis Helps Control Mood Swings

Psychiatry Advisor conducted a series of interviews with patients using cannabis as a treatment. Many of them reported to experience mood swings less frequent than with their traditional meds.

Cannabis also helped them with hyperactivity, manage daily chores in a better way, and thus, may have an anti-psychotic function.

Another study conducted in 2016 worked to find cannabinoid effects on those with bipolar disorder, particularly the plant’s impact on cognitive function and mood of people with the disease. There were 74 participants:

  • 12 with bipolar disorders who were cannabis smokers
  • 18 bipolar patients who were non-smokers
  • 23 marijuana smokers with no other Axis 1 pathology, and
  • 21 healthy controls.

All the subjects completed a neuropsychological battery. The participants rated their moods thrice a day, along with reporting marijuana use each time for four weeks.

The results suggested that the consumption of cannabis caused no significant mental impairment to people with bipolar disorders in comparison to bipolar patients who were non-consumers.

The study rejected the notion that the use of marijuana for treating bipolar disorders affects a person’s cognitive abilities.

Further, the study found that marijuana helped bipolar disorder patients improve their moods. There was a substantial decrease in mood symptoms.

The Problem With Many Studies On Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder.

Another study, focused on the relationship between cannabis and bipolar disorder, found that marijuana promotes a positive outlook in patients, thereby enhancing their mood.

Nevertheless, the researchers discovered that patients tend to use cannabis when they’re already happy. Few used cannabis when they experienced severe symptoms of bipolar disorder. This translates to the simple fact than when patients may need cannabis the most, they are less inclined to actually use it.

Genes, Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder

Your genetics are one of the major factors influencing the body’s response to cannabinoids. There is a relation between your genes, cannabis, and bipolar disorder.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that people carrying certain gene types are vulnerable to psychosis. For example, a person with an unusual variation of the AKT1 gene is more prone to have psychosis.

Further, a genetic variation in a gene responsible for controlling catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme, increases the risk of psychosis.

Hence, it is recommended to undergo a test for genetic variations before using cannabis for bipolar disorder.

Final thoughts

Fighting bipolar disorder is a lifelong struggle that affects not only a patient but also caregivers. Many studies have found a positive impact of cannabis on bipolar disorder patients.

However, the effect of cannabis on bipolar disorder varies from person to person. How your body responds to cannabis treatment depends upon your genes, brain structure, and family history. It is best to consult your physician before attempting any sort of treatment for this disease.

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