Medical Cannabis Effects on Bipolar Disorders | cannabisMD

The Effects of Medical Cannabis on Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 Explained

Facts on medical cannabis when used for bipolar disorder

Image Credit: By Martin Gaal on shutterstock.

There are more than 2 categories of bipolar disorder and the diagnosis depends on the symptoms experienced. Bipolar is a mood disorder commonly associated with mood changes from manic highs to extreme lows. Not all categories of bipolar disorder feature these specific symptoms.

The diagnosis of bipolar disorder, as well as the type, can only be determined by a qualified mental health professional. The diagnosis can take years to be accurately determined as it involves study and observation of the individual under various circumstances. The most commonly known types of bipolar disorders are bipolar disorders are bipolar 1 and bipolar 2.

Bipolar 1 vs. Bipolar 2

Bipolar disorder 1 is diagnosed in patients who exhibit manic episodes, with or without subsequent depression or low periods. Manic episodes include at least 3 of the following symptoms:

  • Low attention span
  • Irritability
  • Reduced requirement for sleep
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Extremely high self-esteem
  • Disordered thought
  • Talkativeness on a higher level than usual
  • High energy levels
  • Risky behaviours increase (this can include behaviours such as gambling, incurring debt))
  • Exceptionally goal focused

These episodes are generally sudden. They can vary in level dramatically from seemingly normal to extremely erratic behaviour. Bipolar 2 disorder is similar to bipolar 1 but does not include as extreme mania.

Bipolar disorder 2 sufferers experience hypomania. Hypomanic episodes are less severe and shorter lasting. While mania can last months, hypomania is often within the confines of the day. People living with this particular disorder can show periods of increased goal-oriented behaviour and even improved performance at work.

The symptoms of depressive episodes include at least 5 of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Depression or low moods
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of being worthless or guilty
  • Lack of pleasure in experiences

People living with bipolar 2 can be mistaken for suffering from depression. Their lows are often noticed, while the manic episodes are more subtle and often not reported to medical professionals.

Who Can Suffer From Bipolar Disorder And What Are The Risks?

Almost anyone can develop bipolar disorder. It is far more prevalent in families with a history of the disorder. Children with parents presenting with bipolar have a 10% to 50% chance of developing bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. It is estimated that almost 2.5% of people suffer from some form of bipolar disorder. Bipolar 2 is the most common form and can lead to issues such as:

  • Self-harm
  • Eating disorders
  • Infidelity
  • Substance abuse
  • Other harmful practises

People who are under stress, suffer from insomnia, abuse drugs or alcohol are at a higher risk for developing bipolar disorder.

Bipolar 1 and 2 disorders, as well as the lesser-known categories of bipolar disorder, are found in people from various socio-economic and ethnic groups. The disorder appears to affect all genders. Although women appear to suffer from depressive lows more often while men appear to experience more manic states. Bipolar disorder can begin at any age but appears to have an onset of around the age of 25 in most cases and before the age of 50 in almost all cases.

Treatment Options For Bipolar Disorder

There are currently a number of treatment options on the market including:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Mood stabilizing antipsychotics
  • Antidepressant anti-psychotics.

Other forms of treatment can include lifestyle changes such as improving sleep, healthier diet, reducing or eliminating the use of alcohol and drugs or changing medication routines.

Treatment for substance abuse can assist in reducing the severity of manic and depressive episodes. It may reduce the length of episodes and even prevent them from triggering episodes. Psychotherapy can assist in improving behaviours that trigger bipolar disorder. They can assist behaviours in manic and depressive episodes. Another treatment that is having some success is medical cannabis.

What Is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis includes cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. These are prescribed by a medical practitioner to treat specific disorders or illnesses. This is a legal prescription drug. It is often used for:

  • The reduction of muscle spasms and tics
  • The reduction chronic pain
  • Improving sleep
  • Reduction of nausea especially in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Improving the appetite in people suffering from diseases such as AIDS and anorexia
  • Treatment of glaucoma
  • Treatment of migraines
  • Treatment of arthritis

Medical cannabis is used in the form of:

  • Lozenges
  • Capsules
  • Patches
  • Tinctures
  • Sprays
  • Vaporizing/smoking of the dried herb
  • Edibles

How Can Medical Cannabis Be Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder?

Medical cannabis has been used to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety, depressive disorders, sleep disorders, and even bipolar disorder. Medical cannabis effects include:

  • Sedative
  • Antipsychotic
  • Hypnotic
  • Antidepressant
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anxiolytic

Medical cannabis has been shown to:

  • Improve anxiety levels
  • Reduce the length and severity of the depressive episodes
  • Improve sleep and energy levels
  • Reduce some of the effects of extreme mania.

Conventional drugs used to treat bipolar disorder can result in a number of harmful side effects. Medical marijuana offers alternative treatments such as Lithium. This has long-term side effects in many users.

Using two different strains of medical cannabis, sativa and indica together can improve the management of the disorder. Indica is generally prescribed to reduce anxiety and insomnia, while sativa is used as a stimulant to improve mood and appetite. Indica is usually used during the depressive stage of the disorder, especially by those with Bipolar disorder 2 which generally shows longer and more intense depressive episodes.

Further Studies On Medical Marijuana And Bipolar Disorder

There are a number of studies available that show the improvements on bipolar disorder from medical cannabis, such as: the Ashton Review, the Braga Study, the Tyler Study and the Sagar Study. Further studies may assist in assessing any possible side effects from the long-term use of this drug. Especially in the bipolar patients that have a predisposition for substance abuse.

The use of medical marijuana has shown to improve some aspects and reduce negative aspects of bipolar disorder. The recommendation is that each person is treated on a case-by-case basis. The medication must be fine-tuned or ceased depending on the sufferer themselves and their individual experiences using the treatment. The same would apply with CBD.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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