Beloved actress, writer, and cultural icon Carrie Fisher was one of many cherished high-profile artists to pass away in 2016. With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Fisher’s many admirers will be mourning her passing all over again as they watch her in her final performance in the role that made her an icon and global female role model 40 years ago. One of the things that earned Carrie Fisher nearly universal admiration was her candid sense of humor about her life. Fisher was a confessional artist—insatiably open about the ups and downs of her joys and struggles. Everything from her love life to drug use was all out on the table.
Carrie Fisher was also very open about her lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder. Though cultural discussion of mental illness has changed for the better in recent years, we still live in a world where mental disorders are culturally taboo. Fisher’s openness about bipolar marked a small cultural shift in the way we talk about mental illness. Fisher was unusually open about going through electroshock therapy, which she alleged was a positive treatment method for her. Electroshock treatment is probably unsustainable for many bipolar patients, but Fisher’s high-profile experiences may offer hope to those who have exhausted all traditional bipolar treatment options.
The use of cannabis and CBD products in treating mental disorders has proven very promising in recent years. Bipolar disorder is more complex than other mental disorders. Something as extreme as electroshock therapy may only work for a select few patients. Cannabis-based medications may have much broader therapeutic value. As a clinical treatment substance, CBD is still in its infancy. Discover how CBD oil can safely and effectively treat bipolar disorder with this comprehensive guide.
Most of us, at the very least, have heard the term “bipolar” at some point or another. 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. Mental illness awareness is rapidly increasing in the U.S., but we still have a long way to go in having a basic working knowledge of the most common mental disorders. In the meantime, here is a comprehensive summary of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder (previously called ‘manic depression’) is a mental disorder 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:
Symptoms of bipolar depression which contrast significantly with the mania symptoms—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.
Many bipolar patients and their loved ones report that reading personal stories of other bipolar patients are constructive both in diagnosing and knowing how to treat the disorder. There is arguably no better way of recognizing the pattern of bipolar than by seeing the way they play out in real, individual lives.
Sarah’s story is a particularly extreme case, but it illustrates how severe bipolar can get if it goes untreated for a long time. Sarah used drugs and drank heavily in her teens, but tried to turn her life around in her 20s. The next decade of her life was marked by periods of both personal and financial success, all undone by the erratic, impulsive behavior of her undiagnosed disorder. Within a year, Sarah says she “destroyed a happy 12-year marriage with the perfect partner […] liquidated our retirement real estate portfolio of 6 houses, lost my own home which I had owned free and clear, blew thousands of dollars on international travel including 2 round the world trips, threw away my career and a prestigious PhD scholarship, moved to a foreign country.” It wasn’t until after all of these experiences that Sarah was finally given a proper diagnosis and successfully treated for her bipolar disorder.
Missy is another bipolar patient who wasn’t correctly diagnosed until well into adulthood. She has periodically prescribed medication for depression, but never took it. “I felt like I would be giving in. I didn’t need medication, and I could do it on my own.” Missy eventually started taking meds for the safety of her daughter, but it wasn’t until she was hospitalized for a severe episode that she was properly diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder.
Zack was also diagnosed after suffering a manic episode. Luckily, this episode occurred when Zack was in college, so he could be adequately diagnosed earlier in life. Zack has had a few manic episodes since his diagnosis, but only when he stopped taking medication. These episodes have caused him to spend money impulsively and have hurt his relationships with multiple girlfriends.
All of these stories have relatively positive endings. Though they differ slightly in the severity of symptoms, all of these cases were all treated with some combination of therapy and medication. Bipolar can be incredibly disruptive to a person’s life, but it’s also very treatable. Still, alternative forms of treatment are becoming more frequently sought out as the inevitable side effects of mood stabilizers become unbearable. Cannabis and CBD products have become popular alternative treatment options for a wide variety of mental disorders, and bipolar is undoubtedly one of them.
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.
Cannabis’ cannabidiol (CBD) content 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 disorders. 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 an 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 a 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 are 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 complicated 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.