Around 46 million people around the world struggle with the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder can disrupt daily life, affecting relationships and ability to work.
There are three kinds of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, with symptoms including manic episodes that can last at least a week and may even require admission to the hospital; bipolar II is characterized by patterns of manic and depressive episodes, particularly elevated moods that make patients more agitated and energetic; and cyclothymic disorder, with symptoms including a rapid cycling of high and low mood swings, going from excessively energetic and happy to depressive in a switch.
Psychotherapy and medications are recommended for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Pharmaceutical medications are conventionally seen as necessary to help regulate moods. However, many patients don’t find relief from symptoms from pharmaceutical medications especially its effects take a while, and they usually come with side effects.
Cannabis is a safer, more natural alternative that can help patients with bipolar disorder.
A brand new study, that sought to understand how cannabis affected cognitive and goal-directed behaviors among people with bipolar disorder, reveals that marijuana may have “uniquely beneficial effects” for this condition. Researchers, who presented the findings at the Neuroscience 2022 conference, specifically found that cannabis was effective in improving cognitive function while helping reduce risky decision making, which is common among individuals with bipolar disorder.
The researchers also suggest that cannabis reduces the dopaminergic activity in the brain to help suppress its symptoms.
“Chronic cannabis use may have uniquely beneficial effects in people with BD. Previous studies suggest that some people with BD have increased dopaminergic activity due to a reduced dopamine transporter expression,” they concluded. “Chronic cannabis use has been shown to reduce dopamine release, thus chronic cannabis use may result in a return to dopamine homeostasis in people with BD and consequently normalizing their deficits in goal directed behaviors. We are engaged in additional studies that explore this potential,” wrote the authors.
There have been similar findings in other older studies.
According a 2018 clinical trial data, researchers found that cannabis consumption is linked to improvement in clinical symptoms of bipolar disorder. It also doesn’t negatively impact cognitive performance, they shared. Researchers from Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, and Tufts University analyzed the impact of cannabis on cognitive function and moods among patients who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This marked the first clinical trial to ever be conducted with the goal of analyzing how marijuana affects neuropsychological performance and mood.
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They found that cannabis use resulted in reduced scores for depression, anger, and tension. It was also associated with increased vigor. However, patients who consumed marijuana also showed no significant changes in cognitive performance compared to subjects who abstained.
“The current study highlights preliminary evidence that patients with BPD who regularly smoked marijuana reported at least a short-term clinical symptom alleviation following marijuana use, indicating potential mood-stabilizing properties of marijuana in at least a subset of patients with BPD,” they concluded.
A significant portion of the population do not even know they have bipolar disorder. They do, however, experience mild symptoms of mood swings and other symptoms of dysregulated moods. For them, cannabis can also help.
A 2020 review from researchers at the University of New Mexico involving the analysis of real-life information taken from the Releaf App found that cannabis was effective in treating the symptoms of depression. “One of the more interesting findings from this study, is that cannabis flower with relatively high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is particularly associated with immediate reductions in the intensity of depressive feelings,” explains researcher Jacob Miguel Vigil.
“With no end to the depression epidemic in sight, and given the limitations and potential severe negative side effects of conventional antidepressant medications, there is a real need for people to be able to treat mood disturbances with natural, safe, and effective medications, and the cannabis plant checks off all three boxes,” he added.
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Boosting the endocannabinoid system with the use of cannabinoid-based products has been shown to positively impact the neuroendocrine, neurotransmission, and neuroimmune systems. These systems are all greatly affected by those who suffer from depression and other mood disorders such as bipolar disorder.
In a 2006 study out of Montreal, researchers found that increasing the amount of endocannabinoids produced by the brain is effective in improving one’s mood. Investigators from the McGill University Health Center revealed that using the synthetic URB579 agent resulted in “potent anti-depressant-like effects” in animal models because it was successful in preventing cannabinoids from degrading.
It was the first study to ever prove that something external can help boost cannabinoids and overall mood.
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According to lead researcher Gabriella Gobbi, “This is the first time it has been shown that a drug that increases cannabinoids in the brain can improve your mood,” she said.
Additionally, a 2020 report from BMC Psychiatry found that whole plant cannabis and plant-based cannabinoids are effective in improving moods and sleep while reducing anxiety and psychotic disorders.
While the body of research on cannabis for bipolar disorders is fairly young, the studies and anecdotal evidence is promising. If you or a loved one struggle with bipolar disorder and want to use cannabis or CBD products, be sure to do so with the guidance of your physician.
This article originally appeared on Cannabis.net and has been reposted with permission.