At the very least, most of us have heard the term ‘bipolar’. We may have a co-worker or classmate with a bipolar diagnosis. We may have friends, relatives, or casual acquaintances that are bipolar. Unfortunately, many of us have little more than a superficial understanding of what bipolar disorder is.
According to Dr. Wes Burgess, author of The Bipolar Handbook: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers, “It is estimated that 2 to 7% of people in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder. Almost 10 million people will develop the illness sometimes during their lives. About half of these will never receive the correct diagnosis or treatment.”
In light of this, mental illness awareness is rapidly increasing in the U.S., but we still have a long way to go – especially when trying to understand how CBD could help.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized primarily by stark periods of severe depression and elevated mood. These mood changes are often interspersed with regular mood shifts. Bipolar mood swings aren’t always dangerous but can lead to erratic behavior and suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms and signs of bipolar vary, depending on what aspects of the disorder are most prominent in an individual. Symptoms of the bipolar ‘mania’ phase include:
To understand bipolar more clearly, it’s important to know the distinction between the different types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is the more extreme form of the disorder, characterized by escalating, extreme manic episodes. Depressive episodes are also possible, but not specific to bipolar I. Bipolar II is much more common, and typically involves less pronounced manic symptoms interspersed with bipolar depression.
The medical cannabis industry is seeing a significant boom. The growth of state-by-state legalization has led to an entirely new market of cannabis-based alternative medicine. Federal laws are still blocking cannabis from assimilation into Western medicine, which makes it difficult to test cannabis for federal medicinal approval.
In conjunction with sweeping anecdotal evidence and personal stories, the clinical tests that have been done indicate the clear medicinal value in cannabis, especially in treating mental disorders. Broader legalization of cannabis has also led to a diversification of cannabis strains and healthier new modes of cannabis ingestion. There is no one-size-fits-all cannabis-based remedy for mental disorders like bipolar, but understanding how cannabinoids interact with the body can help a patient narrow things down to a helpful selection.
The cannabidiol (CBD) content found in cannabis is the central reason for its increasing value as a medicinal property. Next to THC, CBD is the most prominent compound of the cannabis plant and acts as a non-psychoactive therapeutic agent. CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. By regulating cannabinoid receptors, CBD has been active as an anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and neuroprotective agent.
Unfortunately, high-THC strains don’t work for everyone. The treatment of bipolar with THC is complicated by the fact that many bipolar patients report some adverse side effects. Bipolar is a complex disorder, which makes treating it with cannabis more complicated than with other mental illnesses. However, for specific symptoms and other effects of bipolar (especially depressive ones), the popular CBD oil remedy can also be useful.
Research indicates that cannabis alleviates depression symptoms associated with bipolar. Mixtures of THC and CBD have generally been effective in treating depression in general, as have CBD, hemp oil, and other CBD-centric products. Cannabis researchers still disagree on whether typical cannabis strains are helpful or harmful in treating bipolar. Fortunately, CBD is yet to demonstrate any of the potential adverse side effects associated with other forms of cannabis.
One of the biggest advantages of CBD is that it’s federally legal. Where other forms of cannabis are incredibly difficult to access for some patients, CBD has become readily available — especially in the form of CBD oil. The essential oil industry has proliferated in recent years, meeting the demand of increasing enthusiasm for alternative medicine. Perhaps, as a result, CBD oil has also become a very accessible mode of medicinal cannabinoid treatment.
Despite its potency as an antidepressant, some studies still indicate that CBD is ineffective in treating bipolar 1 manic episodes on its own. However, there’s still clear potential for developing CBD as an antipsychotic. CBD oil may also be safe to take in conjunction with anti-psychotic meds.
One of the most common antipsychotics used to treat bipolar-related mania is haloperidol. In addition to treating schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome and acute psychosis, haloperidol is often used for bipolar in conjunction with mood stabilizers like lithium. Bipolar treatment usually comes in the form of multiple medications working in tandem. Many clinicians avoid prescribing antidepressants to bipolar patients because antidepressants can trigger manic episodes.
This possibility is dependent on individual cases, but across the board, treating bipolar depression is different than treating other forms of depression.
For bipolar patients, CBD can be a low-risk anti-depressant that is unlikely to interfere with other bipolar medications. It may also reduce the unwanted side effects of antipsychotics. A recent study in Italy indicated that CBD could potentially treat symptoms of schizophrenia more effectively than antipsychotics. It also suggested that patients who take antipsychotics experienced a reduction in adverse side effects when also taking CBD.
Another study demonstrated CBD’s ability to alleviate the side effects associated with haloperidol specifically. Taken all together, the evidence of these studies strongly suggests that CBD can either replace or improve the effects of antipsychotics. To summarize, CBD may work well in conjunction with antipsychotic meds because:
The decision to replace antipsychotic medications with CBD is something that should be done carefully, especially for bipolar patients. The results of individual cases will vary, and depend mainly on the severity of one’s bipolar condition. Bipolar patients should always consult with their physician before making any drastic changes to medication plans.
If you or a loved one decide to try CBD treatment for bipolar, it’s crucial to begin with a proper dosage. Whether using a high-CBD medical cannabis strain or THC-free CBD oil to treat bipolar disorder, dosage can mean the difference between a positive experience or a dangerous experiment.
As we’ve already discussed in this article, manic symptoms of bipolar can be exacerbated when cannabis is introduced to a bipolar medication plan. Even in mild hemp oils, it’s important to know the THC/CBD ratio. Because bipolar is such a complex disorder, it’s probably best to take a cautious approach to dosage at first.
CBD is a relatively low-risk alternative medication. The benefits of CBD in treating bipolar are yet to be solidified, but it’s already clear that CBD oil is one of the safest medicinal cannabis products to star with. Whether you’re trying bipolar friendly cannabis strains, or using CBD oil for the first time, starting with a cautious dosage and staying (at least partially) on your usual meds is often the best method. For more information, browse the links we’ve shared above, consult with your physician, and start working on a new treatment plan today.