According to recent statistics, bipolar disorder affects up to 1.6% of the global population. To give you a bigger picture, this means roughly 70 million people on Earth suffer from the condition to some degree.
When it comes to mental ailments such as bipolar disorder, available treatment options are often ineffective and come with a plethora of dangerous side-effects.
CBD (cannabidiol) has been shown to support healthy neurotransmitter activity and protect the brain from damage. Through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), it’s believed to lower the severity of bipolar disorder and help stabilize mood throughout the day in a safe way.
What to Know About Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder involves sharp changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels.
The underlying cause of the condition is believed to be the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Chemical messengers such as dopamine, glutamate, GABA., and serotonin, all work in their own fashion to regulate our moods throughout the day.
Mood fluctuations are normal among people; everybody experiences them from time to time. If you can relate to this, it doesn’t mean you have bipolar disorder, but when the mood swings happen too frequently and are far more severe, it can compromise a person’s daily functioning such as completing simple tasks or engaging in social interactions.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact cause of the bipolar disorder is never truly identified in many cases, and the specific neurotransmitters that trigger bipolar symptoms can vary between individuals. As a result, the condition is difficult to treat, and finding the right therapy involves trial and error. Most of the time, patients try a drug and wait to see if it brings relief. If not, they try another one until they find a medication that finally makes their symptoms manageable.
Bipolar disorder involves episodes of extreme emotions, ranging from depression to mania. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks at a time.
Some of the known risk factors for bipolar disorders include:
- Chronic depression
- Excessive mental stress
- Family history of bipolar disorder
- Hormone imbalances
- Neurodegenerative disorders
- Neurotransmitter imbalances
- Post-traumatic stress
Three Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are three main types of episodes experienced by patients with bipolar disorder:
- Manic Episodes — manic episodes occur when the brain becomes hyperactive, making people seem overly happy. During manic episodes, those with bipolar disorder tend to experience a boost in energy, making appearances as being highly motivated and euphoric. Such extreme emotions lead to side-effects such as anxiety and insomnia. Manic episodes cause recklessness and may also contribute to the development of delusions, paranoia, and psychosis.
- Hypomanic Episodes – A hypomanic episode is a less extreme version of the manic episode — it’s often put between mania and depression. Individuals with hypomania are usually able to complete their daily duties, but find it more difficult to avoid bursts of anxiety and distractors.
- Major Depressive Episodes – Major depressive episodes are on the opposite spectrum of manic episodes. It leads to low motivation in those affected, which may also make them feel sluggish, tired, and depressed. This form of bipolar disorder involves periods of social isolation and suicidal thoughts.
How is Bipolar Disorder Typically Treated?
As mentioned, treating bipolar disorder is challenging because it is a multifaceted condition. The best treatment for the condition is a combination of psychotherapy or counseling that helps determine potential triggers and root problems such as a history of mental stresses or substance abuse.
Other triggers, such as imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitters, should also be investigated and treated as necessary. When it comes to symptom relief, doctors prescribe a few pharmacological treatments that may be effective for bipolar disorder.
Medications used to manage bipolar disorder include:
- Anticonvulsants (Depakote, Tegretol)
- Antidepressants (Sertraline)
- Antidepressant-antipsychotics (Symbyax)
- Antipsychotics (Abilify, Latuda, Zyprexa)
- Mood stabilizers (Carbamazepine, lithium, valproic acid)
You can also use complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, sensory deprivation, removal of mental stresses, nutritional changes, support groups, or CBD supplementation.
Here’s what science says about using CBD for bipolar disorders.
CBD Benefits for Bipolar Disorder
Cannabis has been shown to improve cognitive functioning in people with mental disorders, as reported by a 2010 study published in Psychological Medicine (1).
Although researchers have recently found that people with bipolar disorder may benefit from using marijuana, some folks may feel apprehensive about using intoxicants, even in moderate or therapeutic amounts.
Using CBD has the same antipsychotic and anticonvulsant properties as traditional bipolar disorder treatments according to a 2005 study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology (2). If you want to benefit from cannabis without the buzz, hemp-derived CBD oil will be an excellent choice.
Products made from hemp are more accessible due to their legal status. Hemp was federally legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, which made it an agricultural crop in the light of the law. Hemp-derived CBD is widely available in local health stores, dispensaries, vape stores, and online.
Below we shed light on the noteworthy benefits of CBD for bipolar disorders.
CBD May Reduce the Intensity of Mania
A person with bipolar disorder will often demonstrate intense symptoms of mania which affects both them and the people closest to them. A 1998 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs concluded that patients using cannabis experienced better results than with conventional treatments. The study points to the use of CBD as a promising treatment for bipolar disorder. However, the effects were tested only on one type of condition: hypomanic episodes (3).
CBD Has Antidepressant Properties
In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, the density of CB1 cannabinoid receptors was associated with the reduction in the depressive period of bipolar disorder. CBD may help restore CB1 receptors through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, hence the said effects (4).
CBD oil is a potentially helpful source of relief for those with depressive episodes. The cannabinoid can be a mood enhancer due to its actions on the serotonin receptors in your body. With appropriate levels of serotonin in the bloodstream, and with CBD oil helping regulate sleep, depressive episodes may be prevented.
CBD Improves Stress Management
Stress is the underlying cause of most anxiety-related disorders, and CBD oil appears to alleviate stress like no other natural remedy out there.
Stressed people who have a predisposition for mental health problems will only increase their risk of stress if left neglected — especially by bipolar individuals.
Using CBD oil for bipolar disorder can be effective due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating stress response on top of a wide range of biological processes.
CBD Is Not Addictive Like Some Other Medications
Conventional bipolar treatments such as lithoid, Symbax, benzodiazepines like Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium are typically prescribed and entail a long list of dangerous side effects compared to cannabis compounds.
Some of these medications are strongly addictive and may also cause difficulty sleeping, weight gain, manic depression, and suicidal ideation in severe cases.
With CBD oil, the only side effects you might experience are dry mouth, slight fluctuation of appetite, fatigue, and drowsiness — but this applies to high doses of CBD. Studies on the side effects of CBD show that the cannabinoid is safe in regular use. But most importantly, CBD is not addictive, and you can’t fatally overdose on it. In fact, it has been shown by recent studies to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse in addicts (5).
How to Use CBD for Bipolar Disorder?
CBD can ease many of the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. However, people who use cannabis have reported aggravation of their symptoms after consumption. This is mainly due to the high THC content in marijuana flowers, which is neuro-stimulating and can deteriorate your symptoms.
That’s why bipolar people are advised to use hemp-derived CBD products; and if they live in a place with a legal marijuana market, it’s better to pick a high-CBD low-THC strain, or at least one that has equal ratios of the two cannabinoids.
If you live in a place where medical-grade cannabis is illegal, hemp-derived CBD products are your only option. You can find CBD oils, capsules, or edibles that contain high concentrations of CBD and less than 0.3% THC.
There are several ways to administer CBD. Below we discuss the most common option and how they can help you manage bipolar disorder.
CBD oils are the most common type of CBD supplementation because it’s easy to use and allows for accurate dosing. CBD oil contains a CBD extract and food-grade carrier oil. The CBD is suspended in oils for two reasons.
First, a carrier oil increases the bioavailability of CBD oil. In other words, more CBD will end up in your bloodstream when you take it along with fats. CBD is fat-soluble, so it helps you maximize the potency.
Second, pure CBD resin comes as sticky oil or tiny crystals, both of which are difficult to dose accurately. When you use a carrier oil, it thins down the extract, solving the problem.
As an oil, the dose is measured using the provided dropper. You need to transfer that amount of CBD under your tongue and hold it there for up to 60 seconds before swallowing. Since the swallowed dose is suspended in a carrier oil, it becomes more available for the body and the oil doesn’t lose as much potency as it would if consumed in its raw form.
CBD capsules are another popular form of consuming cannabidiol. They provide a fixed amount of CBD per capsule, which takes a lot of the guesswork away. CBD capsules are also more convenient than the oil. They are easy to take on the go and there’s no risk of leakage.
This form of CBD comes in both low-potency and high-potency options to suit different types of consumers. Many people who take several supplements in capsules throughout the day find it easier to integrate CBD into their regime.
If you don’t like the taste of the oils or tinctures and want to avoid swallowing capsules, CBD edibles are your best bet.
The only concern about taking CBD edibles for bipolar disorder is that the amount of CBD they contain needs to pass through the digestive system before entering the bloodstream, losing some of its potency. With CBD edibles, dosing is often unreliable and inconsistent.
CBD Vape Pens
Vaporized CBD absorbs into your system through the lung tissue, from where it can easily reach the endocannabinoid system. As such, it also provides the fastest-acting method to consume cannabidiol. The effects of CBD vapes are usually noticeable within a few minutes after inhalation.
How Often Should You Take CBD for Bipolar Disorder?
As mentioned, conditions such as bipolar disorder require consistency with your supplementation. Only by being consistent will you be able to manage the symptoms of your ailment and balance endocannabinoid deficiencies in your system, which is one of the suspected causes of bipolar disorder.
Ideally, you should take CBD a few times a day depending on the consumption methods. With CBD oil, the effects last up to 6 hours, so you can split your daily dosage into two portions, both in the morning and in the evening. For products like CBD vapes or CBD hemp flowers, you’ll probably need to increase your frequency of use, as inhaled forms of cannabidiol have a shorter duration, usually up to 4 hours.
CBD Oil Dosing for Bipolar Disorder
Finding out the right amount of CBD for your individual situation will require some trial and error. Everybody responds to CBD differently, so you won’t avoid a little bit of self-testing. Of course, you can minimize the amount of error in your endeavor, which is exactly what we’re going to cover in this section.
It’s generally best to start with a low dose and gradually work your way up to the point where you find relief from your bipolar symptoms. Most people experience benefits when they reach the medium- or high-strength dose. The amount of CBD oil you’ll need to take depends on the severity of these symptoms and your overall mental health. The only way to find out your optimal dosage range is to test it.
Start by taking 10 mg CBD twice a day, monitoring the effects for one week. You can keep a dosage log where you will write down how you feel after each dose, and whether or not the symptoms become more manageable. If you find no relief after that time, add another 10 mg to your regime and repeat the trial.
Are There Any Side Effects?
When you take CBD for bipolar disorder, you can rest assured there will be no life-threatening side effects. In fact, CBD has an excellent safety profile and has been mentioned several times by many health organizations as well as tolerable by humans. The examined dosages ranged from 300 to 1,500 mg of CBD daily.
However, there are a few mild side effects you should be aware of. Since most people with bipolar disorder benefit from medium- to high-strength doses, chances are you will experience one of them.
Common side effects of CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Appetite fluctuation
As we said, there’s also a risk of CBD-drug interactions. For this reason, we encourage you to consult a doctor experienced in CBD use and cannabis, in general, to avoid these interactions if you’re taking any medications for bipolar disorder.
Always Do Your Research to Avoid Buying Mislabeled or Fake CBD Oil
While high-quality CBD oil is completely safe for your health, many inexperienced users fall prey to fake and mislabeled products churned out by fly-by-night con men. Such oils may contain pesticides, heavy metals, toxic solvent residue, and other contaminants that are dangerous for humans. They may also contain a higher THC content than the label claims.
If you’re ready to invest in CBD oil, make sure you follow the steps we list below:
- Purchase only lab-tested products – look for certificates of analysis from an independent laboratory. Third-party labs analyze the potency of the product sample and look for the aforementioned contaminants to ensure the product is safe for consumption.
- Choose reputable brands – producers with a well-established record of satisfied customers and good reviews across the Internet usually provide much more reliable products than companies who pop up out of nowhere.
- Look for CO2-extracted oils – CO2 extraction prevents contamination and ensures consistency in the cannabinoid profile of CBD oil because it doesn’t use harsh solvents or additional heat.
- Pick full-spectrum extracts – full-spectrum CBD comes from the whole hemp plant, and as such, it preserves the broadest possible profile of the cannabinoids, with less than 0.3% THC per volume. The full-spectrum version contains other cannabinoids, terpenes, as well as vitamins, and trace minerals. These compounds help the CBD oil produce more potent effects than products made from CBD isolate, which is pure crystalline CBD.
Final Thoughts: Is CBD Oil a Viable Option for Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder can seriously compromise your daily functioning. The condition is also difficult to diagnose and treat, often involving experimentation with different pharmaceuticals. Some of these medications are simply ineffective, while others cause too many dangerous side effects with long term use.
People are now turning to CBD as a safe and effective alternative for their bipolar symptoms. CBD uses a few different mechanisms related to neurotransmitters, hormones, and the homeostasis (balance) of the central nervous system. It also provides relief from common side-effects of bipolar disorder, such as anxiety and depression, insomnia, and muscle tension.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering the use of CBD supplements for bipolar disorder is to first visit your doctor and avoid any supplement or cannabis strain containing high levels of THC. This is paramount, as too high concentrations of THC can deteriorate the symptoms of the condition.
Do you take CBD for bipolar disorder? What dosages are the most effective in your case? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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- Ashton, C H et al. “Cannabinoids in bipolar affective disorder: a review and discussion of their therapeutic potential.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 19,3 (2005): 293-300. doi:10.1177/0269881105051541
- Grinspoon, L, and J B Bakalar. “The use of cannabis as a mood stabilizer in bipolar disorder: anecdotal evidence and the need for clinical research.” Journal of psychoactive drugs vol. 30,2 (1998): 171-7. doi:10.1080/02791072.1998.10399687
- Koethe, D et al. “Expression of CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the anterior cingulate cortex in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.” Journal of neural transmission (Vienna, Austria: 1996) vol. 114,8 (2007): 1055-63. doi:10.1007/s00702-007-0660-5
- Prud’homme, Mélissa et al. “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence.” Substance abuse: research and treatment vol. 9 33-8. 21 May. 2015, doi:10.4137/SART.S25081