Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
People with bipolar disorder deal with alternating moods of depression and mania. The frequency of the mood swings varies from person to person. Some folks with bipolar have many mood swings a year, and others rarely have them. Like any other mental illness, bipolar disorder takes ongoing management and adjustment.
Pharmaceuticals can work unreliably and have risky side effects. But, medical marijuana works well for some patients and has much safer potential drawbacks. A combined treatment of THC and CBD can moderate your mood swings, making it easier to function.
Sagar et al. investigated whether marijuana use made bipolar disorder worse. Since cannabis is the most widely used substance by folks with bipolar, they felt it was essential to find out how it affected them. They also wanted to examine its impact on cognitive function in bipolar patients.
The team gathered four groups of participants and asked them to monitor their moods and cannabis use regularly. They looked at bipolar and non-bipolar marijuana users, as well as bipolar and non-bipolar non-users. All participants remotely scored their mood a few times a day and submitted weekly scores for four weeks.
Marijuana seemed to have no effect on the bipolar patients’ cognitive impairment. Compared to the non-users without bipolar, the other three groups had more impairment. But, the bipolar users and bipolar non-users had similar levels of impairment, showing no impact from cannabis. In fact, the cannabis improved the bipolar users’ mood symptoms!
Ringen et al. examined the effects of cannabis use on brain function in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Previous research found cannabis affected functioning for people with mental illnesses. But, none of the studies covered its impact on people with bipolar disorder.
Two hundred and seventy-three total patients participated in the study, with 133 of them having bipolar and the others having schizophrenia. The patients went through neuropsychological tests to determine their cognitive functioning and also reported their use of substances like marijuana. When analyzing the results, the researchers ruled out any outside influences.
The bipolar patients who used marijuana had improved brain function compared to bipolar non-users. They had better focus, executive function, learning and memory. Since they explored any interfering factors that could change the results, the team was confident there was a connection. Ringen et al. concluded more research needed to be done on independent samples of bipolar patients.
Sevy et al. sought to find out if cannabis use disorders cause psychosis to occur at an early age. The team framed their study around schizophrenia. But, some bipolar disorder patients deal with psychosis, as well. Previous research indicated there was a possibility, so they wanted to get more data to confirm this suggestion.
The team studied 49 schizophrenia patients with cannabis use disorder (CUD) and 51 schizophrenia patients without CUD. They conducted the research as part of a prospective study comparing schizophrenia treatments, so patients were also interviewed about their medical history and past substance abuse.
CUD did not affect the age at which the patients first experienced psychosis symptoms — instead, factors like gender, socioeconomic status and education had a stronger connection. Most of the subjects had CUD before the onset of psychosis, but that was correlation instead of causation. Sevy et al. urged researchers to consider outside factors in future studies.
Prospective medical marijuana patients should prepare carefully, but we can lend a hand. Read our guide to bipolar disorder and medical marijuana to understand how you can treat bipolar with cannabis medicine. To join your state’s medical marijuana program or get more information, visit a cannabis-friendly doctor in our database.