CBD Oil for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that affects approximately 5 million adults in the U.S. The disorder is also called manic depression or bipolar disease. People diagnosed with the disorder most often begin to show symptoms in their teens to mid-20s although symptoms can begin in childhood or even later in adult life.
WHAT IS BIPOLAR DISORDER?
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme swings in mood that vary from really elevated moods or “highs” called mania to very low moods that may include indifference, sadness, and depression. These extreme shifts in mood are accompanied by significant changes in energy and activity levels, concentration, and one’s ability to perform daily tasks.
There are three different types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder (or Cyclothymia). The type of bipolar disorder diagnosed depends on the presence of manic or hypomanic symptoms and the severity of depressive or low moods.
WHAT ARE CAUSES OF BIPOLAR DISORDER?
Although the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, those with the disorder have identifiable physical changes in the structure of their brain scans. Experts have also identified a genetic link with the disorder since it is more common for those with a parent, sibling, or other first-degree relative with bipolar disorder to develop the disorder as well.
Other risk factors that may predispose a person to bipolar disorder include experiencing high levels of stress during a traumatic event or death in the family as well as alcohol or drug abuse.
WHAT TREATMENTS EXIST FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER?
Because bipolar disorder is considered to be a lifelong condition, the focus of treatment is on managing symptoms. This is done through treatments that may include:
- Medications. Used to stabilize mood and enable the person to participate in therapy and treatment programs as needed.
- Maybe necessary if a person has suicidal thoughts or is extremely manic and not eating or is behaving irrationally and may be harmed because of their behavior. Hospitalization provides a safe, calm environment for the person while medication is administered to level out their moods.
- Substance abuse treatment. For those struggling with substance abuse as well as bipolar disorder.
- Day treatment programs. A healthcare provider may recommend attendance at a day treatment program to provide a person with counseling and support while they are learning to manage their symptoms.
- Ongoing treatment. Experts recommend medications be taken continually throughout life to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as counseling and other support programs as needed.
If medication is not effective for symptom control, less common treatments that may be suggested including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
CAN CBD REDUCE THESE SYMPTOMS?
To date, there are very few studies that have examined the effect of CBD oil as natural mental health support for bipolar disorder. Despite the lack of research on CBD & bipolar disorder, one psychiatrist says she has had “lots of patients…from all over Canada” tell her they are using CBD oil for bipolar disorder and depression.
One study is currently underway looking at the effect of CBD as an adjunct treatment for bipolar depression but the study is not expected to be completed until April 2022. Despite the lack of studies about CBD oil for bipolar disorder, there are some studies that have looked at the effect of CBD oil on patients with anxiety, depression, and psychosis, all which may occur with bipolar disorder.
A review published in 2015 found that CBD oil showed great promise as a treatment for a variety of anxiety disorders in pre-clinical trials with animals and in some early trials with human subjects. However, authors of this review said more studies with human subjects were needed to confirm this including research about the effects of CBD when used long-term.
Medical experts who conducted a systematic review of the research of cannabidiol’s antipsychotic properties found that “first small-scale clinical studies with CBD treatment of patients with psychotic symptoms further confirm the potential of CBD as an effective, safe and well-tolerated antipsychotic compound”.
HOW DOES CBD WORK FOR PATIENTS WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER?
So far, medical experts are not sure if or how CBD affects patients with bipolar disorder.
Researchers suggest that because the endocannabinoid system (ECS) appears to be associated with mood control areas in the brain, a dysfunctional ECS may be associated with bipolar disorder. In their paper, they strongly advocate for more studies that look at the relationship between the ECS and bipolar disorder in patients.
Based on other studies of the ECS, these experts suggest that a study be done in which patients’ cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) receptors are activated and cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) receptors are suppressed. They think this may “alleviate the symptoms of (bipolar disorder) and should be rigorously explored”.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS FROM CBD?
CBD oil is well tolerated by most people. However, some common side effects include:
- Appetite and weight changes
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
Liver toxicity has resulted in some people who have used CBD oil, but this is rare. CBD oil also should not be used when taking medications or supplements that interact with grapefruit juice. That is because both CBD oil and grapefruit juice interfere with a group of enzymes called cytochromes P450 (CYPs) that are needed to metabolize drugs in the liver.
HOW MUCH CBD SHOULD YOU TAKE FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER?
Because research is still lacking regarding CBD & bipolar disorder, a recommended dosage has not yet been determined. Keep in mind that CBD affects people differently. If you decide to use CBD oil, it is recommended that you start with the lowest dose possible and monitor how you are feeling. Watch for the side effects noted above. Then gradually increase your dose as needed if you tolerate CBD well.
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Always check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement routine, including the use of natural products, especially if you are currently taking any medications. You should never replace any treatments for bipolar disorder with CBD oil unless you speak with your doctor first.