Bipolar disorder is basically a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes wild, unpredictable mood changes and sudden, rapid shifts in behavior – often over the most minute of details.
Typically individuals will experience the complete human emotive spectrum – including the low depressive episodes and the euphoric, manic highs – in very short periods of time, often within the same day or even the same hour. And while doctors and researchers attribute many of the symptoms of bipolar disorder to irregularities in the presence of neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, they really are not sure what exactly triggers the condition or why some people are prone to it and others are not.
What’s undeniably clear, though (at least from an anecdotal/non-scientific perspective), is the fact that marijuana has been an effective treatment for bipolar disorder for countless thousands of individuals – both in terms of acute treatment for onset episodes, and for long-term preventative care.
In this article, we talk about marijuana for bipolar disorder, going over some definitive anecdotal evidence as well as some intriguing research and clinical data that has shed a little bit of light on why the herb is so effective at treating the condition. While bipolar disorder is not yet curable by any means, cannabis just might prove to be an adequate treatment option for you, just as it has been for countless thousands of others.
What is Bipolar Disorder, and Who is Most at Risk?
You may or not be surprised to learn that bipolar disorder is not all that rare. Here in the U.S., in fact, it’s estimated that around 5 million people – or just under 3% of the population – have been diagnosed with it. And moreover, it’s assumed that well over twice that figure will live their entire lives with the condition, without ever being officially diagnosed.
In terms of what bipolar actually defines, it is registered by the occurrence of three main symptoms, all of which can arise suddenly and seemingly without relevant cause in the victim. The three symptoms are: mania, hypomania, and depression.
Mania of course involves the most intense of the “high” feelings, and people who are in manic episodes may have the urge to do wild things like spend extravagant amounts of money, make massive decisions spontaneously, or go on toxic drinking binges.
Hypomania is similar to mania, just not as severe. This condition is often experienced by those suffering from bipolar II disorder, which presents nearly all of the same symptoms, just not to the same extreme levels.
And depression, of course, is one of the most debilitating side effects of bipolar disorder. People may be in a low, depressive state for weeks on end, or they may just experience intense, fleeting bouts of depression that are followed in quick succession by manic or hypomanic episodes.
Whatever the specific individual situation, bipolar disorder can make everyday life and simple day-to-day activities incredibly challenging, and it of course presents major obstacles in terms of relationships and family life.
Common Bipolar Medications are Dangerous and Addictive
Many holistically-minded doctors will do all they can to treat bipolar patients with lifestyle changes – trying out things like diet changes, increased exercise, and alcohol abstinence – before they make the decision to put them on prescription medications.
Other doctors, however, (typically medical doctors as opposed to osteopathic doctors) have no hesitation in resorting directly to strong pharmaceutical drugs for treatment. While generally effective (at least for short periods of time), these medications are incredibly habit-forming and present an array of very serious side effects, some of which include manic depression and suicidal thoughts.
Lithobid, for example, is a lithium-based drug that belongs to a class of chemical mood stabilizers. It is frequently prescribed for chronic sufferers of bipolar disorder, and has been known to galvanize an array of negative effects. Here’s what one Reddit user had to say about his experience with lithium treatment for bipolar disorder:
“The issue with lithium is that the effective and toxic doses are very similar, and when dealing with people with bipolar disorder there is a decent chance of them missing or doubling up on doses. Most people that take lithium end up with some level of liver damage, [even though it is] the most widely effective drug for helping with bipolar and they have been using it for decades knowing all of this.”
Likewise, Symbyax is another relatively common bipolar medication that is actually a combination of two types of drugs: olanzapine (which is an antipsychotic) and fluoxetine (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI). Common side effects of Symbyax include increased appetite, weight gain, difficulty sleeping, and swelling in the upper and lower extremities.
And of course, benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium and Klonopin are commonly used for bipolar disorder, even though their addictiveness and vicious side effects (including depression, sleep disruptions, irritability, and aggression) have been well-documented for decades.
Marijuana for Bipolar Disorder Treatment: Will it Work For You?
One of the primary draws to using marijuana as a treatment for any disorder – whether it’s bipolar, insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety, etc – is the fact that it is infinitely safer and far less addictive than each of the aforementioned pharmaceutical meds listed above.
Moreover, for many individuals (especially the countless millions who do not have health insurance), marijuana is far more affordable and less cost-prohibitive than a prescription medication, which can costs hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars per month.
Here’s what several victims of severe bipolar disorder have had to say about switching to cannabis, and how it helped to virtually eliminate their condition:
Reddit user speakeasynow says:
“I’ve been on lithium and I’m BP1 … [marijuana] takes the edge off and lets me unwind the stresses of work and life. I actually feel happier than I’ve felt in months and I don’t feel “edgy” with negative feelings or like I want to escape my situation.” They go on to say that, “…what I do recommend is doing your research on the marijuana side of things … for me, I’m indica all the way. I like something to melt away my stress and knock me into a nice sleep zone at the end of the night. Others prefer sativa strains, but for BP1 that might be risky since more brain activity and creativity could potentially spiral you into mania.”
Another Reddit user, Kajsa101010, shared similar experiences with their use of marijuana for bipolar disorder:
“Because it took so long for me to get diagnosed I can honestly say without marijuana I don’t know where I would be today … it’s really is all about the strains too. Sativa strains are great during depression when you need to get up and start doing something. Indica strains are great when I’m [in a manic mode] and need to eat, go to sleep, and need to chill … Wish they would legalize it and do more studies on it!”
However, it needs to be said that not all people who use marijuana for bipolar disorder experience positive results. For some, in fact, it actually seems to exacerbate their psychotic episodes. One firsthand sufferer (zmis) for instance, says on Reddit:
“…for me personally I found it to be a factor into triggering some psychotic symptoms/episodes. So I’m in the process of cleansing myself of all drugs and seeing how that goes, including the ones prescribed to me … probably not the case for everyone, but be careful.”
All in all, if you’ve been trying heavy prescription medications for your bipolar disorder with negative or limited effects, marijuana very well might be a viable alternative treatment that provides quality results. Speak with a physician about using it if at all possible, and if you live in a state where cannabis is medically or recreationally legal, feel free to stop into a dispensary and ask them which strains might be best suited for treatment.
How to Use Marijuana for Bipolar Disorder
Identifying marijuana for bipolar disorder as a viable treatment option is one thing, but actually buying it and knowing how to use it can be another thing altogether. If you live in a state where weed is legal, it may be as simple as getting your MMJ card online or stopping into a recreational dispensary.
However, if you live in a non-legal state you may be subject to ordering CBD hemp oil online, or left to buying pot on the black market (which is something that we of course cannot legally recommend).
Here are several of the most common ways to use marijuana for bipolar disorder:
- Smoking. This is far and away the simplest, most common, and most time-proven way to consume weed, and it just might be the most effective.
While we fully realize that you may have no intentions of becoming a stoner or a pothead, it’s worth recognizing that many, many thousands of highly successful people roll up joints or smoke bowls/pipes every single day, just so they can live a happy and pain-free life.
- Taking CBD Oil. If you are really against smoking weed, CBD oil may just be the perfect option for you. It has become insanely popular in recent years among people of all ages that suffer from a massive array of medical conditions, including bipolar disorder.
Also, while CBD oil possesses virtually all of the healing and therapeutic effects of whole-plant marijuana, it is 100% non-psychoactive and produces no high whatsoever. While it is a naturally-occurring compound in the plant (just like THC), it does not directly bind to receptors in the brain, and therefore does not alter your mental acuity.
Moreover, since CBD oil can be made from legal industrial hemp, there are many high quality brands that you can buy from online and have shipped directly to your doorstep in all 50 U.S. states
[Learn more about which CBD oils are safe and reputable by checking out this recent article on the 20 best CBD oils for 2018].
- Vaporizing. If you’re concerned about the obvious respiratory effects of smoking or have lung issues that may prevent you from doing so, many people believe that vaporizing marijuana for bipolar disorder is a healthier alternative.
Vaping lets you inhale weed at significantly lower temperatures than does smoking (combusting with a flame), and thus it does not give off nearly the amount of harmful and potentially dangerous toxins. Also, due to the popularity and increased legality of all kinds of weed and cannabis concentrate products, you can now pick up a really high-quality portable vape pen for as little as $25 online, shipped right to your door with the oil cartridge already included.
- THC or CBD Edibles. Last but not least is perhaps the tastiest way to use marijuana for bipolar disorder — edibles. Depending on whether you want the “high” effect or not, edibles can be made with either THC or CBD cannabis strains, both to great effect.
However, it must be said that edibles are MUCH more potent than virtually any other form of marijuana consumption. If you’re not already an avid weed user, we recommend starting off with something much more mild instead (like an oral CBD oil that you administer under the tongue).
Final Thoughts on Marijuana for Bipolar Disorder
Again, we want to make it inherently clear that marijuana for bipolar disorder is by no means a cure for the condition – both BP I and BP II are very complex conditions that doctors and researchers still cannot ascribe a 100% accurate cause for.
Moreover, it’s important to realize that cannabis will not work for everyone’s specific bipolar condition; while it has undoubtedly helped thousands upon thousands of suffering patients, it has also led to increased bouts of paranoia and psychotic episodes in many others.