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Can Medical Marijuana Help with Bipolar Disorder?

September 12, 2017

 (Photo Credit - Max Pixel)


Researchers have been on the fence about medical marijuana's effects on bipolar disorder for quite some time now.  Many believe, and have done studies to show cannabis' efficacy in treating bipolar disorder. With that said, in 2015 a study was performed that showed that there is a possible link between cannabis usage and the worsening of symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. So...which is it? Does medical marijuana help or hurt those afflicted with bipolar disorder? 


What Exactly is Bipolar Disorder?



The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder as "a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks." Within the broader term bipolar disorder, there are 4 distinct types: 

  • Bipolar I Disorder

  • Bipolar II Disorder

  • Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)

  • Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders


These four types of bipolar disorder are classified by different ranges of time and severity that the person diagnosed goes through the aforementioned swings in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods can range from periods of feeling extremely high and energized to periods of feeling very sad, down, or hopeless. The up periods are known as "manic episodes", whereas the down periods are referred to as "depressive episodes". The somewhat in-between periods of less severe manic periods are referred to as "hypomanic episodes".


Depending on the type of bipolar disorder, these periods will be more or less intense and more or less frequent. Additionally, how long each period of feeling up or down can differ from person to person. This may be why it's so difficult to get a concrete answer on whether or not cannabis helps or hurts those with the disorder. 


New Studies' Findings



The more recent study of the two mentioned above brought to light several interesting findings. First of all, it was noted that the use of marijuana was not just associated with positive feelings, but actually with increased manic and depressive symptoms as well. It was also noted that cannabis use was not associated with self-medicating behavior: meaning that patients were not just using it when they were going through manic or depressive episodes. 


To give a different side of the story, a 2009 report titled "Cannabis-Induced Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic Features" showed that "cannabis use can cause acute adverse mental effects that mimic psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."


Obviously this information is relatively conflicting, and that the debate on whether cannabis is an effective treatment for bipolar disorder still stands. Despite the anecdotal evidence and the other studies that my tout the therapeutic uses of the cannabinoids in marijuana for treating bipolar disorder, we cant definitively tell you whether it is the best treatment or not.


If you or your loved one suffers from one of the four types of bipolar disorder, it is incredibly important to start trying to figure out what medications and treatments work best for you. Often sufferers go years trying different treatments before they find one that works best for them.


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