It’s perfectly normal for each of us to have our ups and downs in life—blips in time that bring moments of joy or sadness to an otherwise typically even-keel day. But, for some people, mood shifts and energy level swings are much more than that. They are severe, sometimes uncontrollable, and reflective of a disease called bipolar disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 4% of American adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives. Treatment, which can be emotionally and physically demanding, aims to manage the symptoms and promote function. For most people, that usually means a cocktail of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. But with the rise in popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), incorporating the compound and its abundant benefits into a treatment plan for bipolar disorder is gaining momentum in some circles.
Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder can make routine, everyday tasks difficult to perform because of mood changes. Someone having a manic episode, the “up” part of the equation, is likely to have increased energy and activity levels; struggle with sleep; speak, think or move rapidly; do risky things; and feel jumpy or uneasy. On the flip side, a depressive period can make someone feel listless; worried; devoid of emotion, energy, or hope; tired; and even suicidal. In some cases, a person with bipolar disorder may experience both the manic and depressed emotions simultaneously.
Two things that make bipolar disorder even more puzzling are that the cause is still unknown, and there is no cure. The most frequently cited influences thought to play a part in the condition are biological differences, meaning physical changes to the brain, and genetics, or inheriting the condition from a close family member who also suffers from bipolar disorder.
As with a lot of things related to the compound’s medicinal value, there simply hasn’t been enough independent research to decide how effective CBD is for bipolar disorder. However, based on what we know about CBD, there’s cautious optimism that it could represent a potential new option for those who aren’t keen on continued use of dangerous prescription drugs.
And here’s why: Research on mice has shown that CBD can enhance serotonin levels by acting on our serotonin 5-HT1A receptors. In doing so, the compound induces what the study’s authors called “rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects.”
But what about the manic side of the disease? Research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry detailed a placebo-controlled trial for people undergoing treatment for psychosis, a mental disorder so impairing that the person essentially loses contact with reality. After six weeks of that trial, the participants who used CBD showed lower levels of positive psychotic symptoms than those who received a placebo. In addition, the CBD participants notched improvements in cognitive performance and functioning.
It would be absolutely presumptuous to say CBD for bipolar disorder is a magic bullet, but the possibilities of its use are certainly encouraging.
Leading health experts at some of the highest levels across the globe have been promoting CBD as a safe and potentially effective treatment modality for many different conditions for years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even said that there are no public health-related problems associated with the use of CBD.
In its report, WHO cited several mental conditions in its list of “diseases for which CBD may have therapeutic benefits taken from.” WHO noted CBD’s ability to provide an antidepressant effect in rodents, as well as how the compound may cause a “reduction in muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, problems in concentration, improvement of social interactions in rodent models of anxiety and stress.”
Anxiety and stress are two topics we’ve covered at length, partly because of the prevalence of sufferers in our country, and partly because we know CBD can help alleviate some of those symptoms. Researchers have already said they think CBD has “considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.” But, again, scientists must conduct and publish further research before we can definitively say it’s effective.
First, you should always consult with your doctor before taking CBD for the first time, especially if you’re already taking prescription drugs. It’s also crucial that you understand CBD’s efficacy and the dose you’ll need to reach that level of satisfaction are completely unique to you.