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Could Marijuana Help Bipolar Disorder?

Could marijuana help bipolar disorder?

Marijuana has been shown to benefit a number of physical health problems, ranging from multiple sclerosis to type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer pain. But what about mental disorders? A new study found that use of cannabis (marijuana) could be helpful in improving certain neurocognitive functions in people who have bipolar disorder, a condition diagnosed in such notable individuals as Jesse Jackson Jr., Jane Pauley, and Sinead O'Connor.

How marijuana could help bipolar disorder

There's a tendency to believe that use of marijuana leads to mental health problems, and indeed there have been studies indicating that cannabis can trigger bipolar disorder in susceptible individuals or lead to early psychosis. On the other hand, research has also shown marijuana to be helpful in managing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

In this new study, a collaborative effort between researchers at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, investigators explored the impact of marijuana on the cognitive performance of 50 individuals with bipolar disorder I who had a history of cannabis use compared with 150 people with the mental disorder and no history of cannabis use. All the participants were similar in racial background, age, and educational level, as well as when bipolar disorder was diagnosed.

Individuals who had a history of marijuana use showed "significantly better neurocognitive performance, particularly on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory" than did the study participants who did not use marijuana, according to the researchers.

This finding is similar to the one reached by researchers at the University of Oslo and reported on in Psychological Medicine in 2010. In that study, 133 patients with bipolar disorder and 140 with schizophrenia were evaluated, along with their use of marijuana.

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The Oslo investigators found that use of marijuana among bipolar disorder subjects was associated with improved neurocognitive function, but that this was not true for schizophrenia patients. Bipolar patients who used marijuana showed good focused attention, verbal fluency, logical memory learning, and memory recall.

Bipolar disorder
The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder, which is also referred to as manic-depressive illness, as a brain condition that causes individuals to experience unusual and severe fluctuations in energy, mood, activity level, and their ability to conduct day-to-day tasks. There are four basic types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I disorder, which is the one evaluated in the current study, is mainly defined as experiencing manic (overly joyful or overexcited state) or mixed episodes (manic mixed with feeling extremely sad or hopeless) that last at least seven days, or experiencing severe manic symptoms that require hospitalization. People with bipolar II disorder shift back and forth between but do not suffer with full-blown manic or mixed episodes. Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder, and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS) is characterized by symptoms that don't last long enough or symptoms are too few to meet the criteria of bipolar I or II.

The authors of the latest study concluded that their findings could indicate that use of marijuana "may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders," although they also "may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs." Further research into the impact of marijuana on bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions is warranted.

Braga RJ et al. Cognitive and clinical outcomes associated with cannabis use in patients with bipolar I disorder. Psychiatry Research 2012. DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2012.05.025
National Institute of Mental Health
Ringen PA et al. Opposite relationships between cannabis use and neurocognitive functioning in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine 2010 Aug; 40(8): 1337-47

Image: Wikimedia Commons



I have had a lot of disorders and ive tryd everthing all kinds of medication.I have done better with how i feel and deal with things day2day dutys.My sleep is better and my eating is alot better...I really wish that a real chance for marijuana to help bipolar and other mental problems....It has helped me and i feel and can see a big difference in pill and pot....I WILL NEVER TAKE PILLS AGAIN...Marijuana is the only thing that truely has helped....
Weed is the only thing that has helped me cope with my past. That and therapy. Unfortunatly weed isnt previlant here where I live. But Im moving soon to a place where is is much more previlant and I can Smoke a bowl. It helps with my moodswings. Keeps me happy. and It keeps my social life alive because I had trouble keeping friends with my mood swings. Thank GOD for cannabis.
Agree totally. I think there are a lot more of us out their that don't need a scientific study to tell us that Marijuana is a Godsend. But it is a nice affirmation. I do think that marijuana is harmful to young people.....saps them of their motivation, memory retention, and inhibits their maturing process during those years that the brain is still forming (to 21 yrs old) but I'm sure there are still some cases where mj may help a young person who is suffering.
i have been bipolar for 13 years and i have not smoked weed in 13 years hmmm i wish they would make it legal if they dont soon i might look to get a little fro ma friend see how its does me if it works i could care less what the law is
Not to be a stickler but actually the brain isn't fully developed until the age of 25..
ts the goverment !!!!! someone with lots of money and plenty of power should do something about it !!! soon its gonna be to late !!!!! the people will fight back and we will win !!!!!!!!!!!!
i know for a fact it help i have been bi polar sence i was like 17 years old i am now 33 i smoke to handle my mood swings one min you can be great and the next your pissed at the world so when i fill it comeing on i same one or a bowl i am great . the feds need to know it is not judt to get hi it is for day to day life......# allforfreeingthegreen
Right on, (Anonymous) I was diagnosed "Bipolar / borderline personality disorder" around 1996 and I have been "lab ratted" to death! I have used "pot" to level out my mood swings for many years... However, I believe just as in all things, moderation is key! It is hard for me to not smoke it all day, however I have learned how to implement a regimen that I must strictly follow, and only use it to alleviate my symptoms. I have found that THC helps me more than any other "man made / manufactured" drug that is known to treat our disorder.... Lithium really had a insignificant effect on me as well! They need to legalize Marijuana world wide, for medicinal prepossess at the very least !
When I found out that I was b polar the doc put me on lithium. That wasn't quite working so came along Lamictil worked better than lithuim alone. I started smoking pot again and does take the edge off. My main consern is later in life does it cause phychoisis? I guess I'll find out later in life.
I'm 62 years old and have been living with Bi Polar for over 20 years. I've tried many of the popular medications from the shrink. I've found that living a stress free life is what really helps me from another bout with the dreaded mania. Cannabis use, and I use alot of it each day, has helped keep me Mellow, we've all heard this about Cannabis, but for someone with Bi Polar being mellow all day is a good place to be. I've become more active in my social interations and life continues to improve for me. The other drugs robbed me of almost all pleasure in life and had physical side effects as well. Cannabis use doesn't seem to have any side effects that I"ve noticed, except for the mellowing effect which is why I use it. If you suffer from Bi Polar and cannabis is available to you by all means give it a try. Peace, Dave
David: Thank you for sharing your experience with cannabis for bipolar disorder. Although it may not provide the same effects for everyone, it seems to be an option to seriously consider. I wish you continued good luck and well-being.
Dave I completely agree with you. I am nearly 21 and have been diagnosed with bipolar II since the age of 14. Rage, anger, and frustration are two huge problematic symptoms I deal with every day; whether I'm in a good or bad mood in general throughout the day, I'm always irritably on edge. My poor boyfriend has to see my tantrums and spells of me crying all the time, until I smoke a bowl or two and then I'm a completely different person who is more mellow and able to think things through more thoroughly rather than snapping at the first thing that annoys me or that I don't like. Along with that I have IBS and celiacs and it helps me tremendously with nausea, stomach aches, and even helps me to get an appetite when my body doesn't want food.
Brittany: Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Although marijuana may not help everyone who has bipolar disease, it seems to be beneficial in your case. Wishing you the best.
i wish i could try it again im afraid i well lose my job cause random drug testing my adhd and bipolar is goten really bad depressed a lot more im on wellbuton and prestic
i think i have bipolar 1 but im scared shittlist to go see a doc who knows what that lithuim or what ever they give me could do (i mean look at the side effects) far to little is knowen and i fear that if i go ill be talked in to it by a salesmen in a lab coat. weed (for me) works great as patch for a bullet wound, but no mircle unless you count sucied prevention, sometimes its the only thing that gets me up when im down or chills me out when i feel manic. im glab the scientific comunites, suport reasreaching and legalizing cannabis its a step in the right direction. weed can be used medicaly, as a resourese, recreactional and responsibaly its defently possible. Many of my friends smoke recreationaly and they hold steady jobs, good honest people, i dont hold a jobs well becuase i get so depressed, anxious and fuckd up feeling in public, at home, everywhere its taxing years of it and at the very least pot levels it out makes it barable. i personaly try to aviod recreactional use as much as possible id rather not be "slow feeling" all the time im just aming for leved. any way my plan is do what ever takes to find my zen, see a therpist, i already eat healthy, exercisses, smoke weed and if that doesnt work then fine ill try their pills. when that doesnt work ill try the next life.
I have been classified as Bipolar disorder II. I am a veteran of the U.S. Army. I have smoked marijuana periodically since I was 17. I've never been found positive for marijuana. Weed helps me control my mood and motivates me to do a lot of activities. When I am depressed I always wish I had some to smoke. I really can't wait for the State of Alabama to legalize medical marijuana.
my wife has been living with bipolar since her late 20's early 30's i'm her husband and we've known each other back in high school . she never used marijuana , but i use it myself , lately she has been going through some weird mood awings, i myself have been looking for something to help her and help me with her . you see i myself do not have bipolar but i'm married to her and we need something NOW . i've been thinking about leaving her because i can't take this shit much longer. she is a nut . somedays she is great to be around 5 minutes later she's someone else , i'm at the end of this rope. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tim: Thank you for writing. I am not a physician and so cannot offer medical advice. You did not mention whether your wife is taking any medications and/or if she is compliant with them, what types of medical assistance she had received, and who you have contacted for help. I suggest you contact your local hospitals and see if they can offer any assistance; also support groups for bipolar individuals and their caregivers, and organizations such as Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Support groups can be extremely helpful, as others who are living with this condition and their families can provide lots of information and tips! You might check with your insurance and see what type of mental health coverage is provided. Good luck to both of you.