CBD for bipolar disorder has taken ground and gained in popularity. The most recent statistics on bipolar disorder report that this complex condition affects approximately 2.6% of the population in the United States. The symptoms of this disorder can have life-altering effects for those diagnosed, and they can also present unique challenges for the loved ones of individuals who live with this disorder.
With a combination of medication and therapy, many people with bipolar disorder are able to live healthy, functional lives. However, finding the right treatment plan can be an ongoing process, and medical researchers are constantly studying potential treatments to find new and effective solutions. In recent years, the spotlight has turned on a natural compound as a potential treatment for bipolar disorder: CBD.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Let’s start with an overview of bipolar disorder. Sometimes known as “manic-depressive illness,” this condition is a brain disorder that causes “unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” These dramatic shifts, known as mood episodes, can be divided into manic and depressive states. This chart from the National Institute of Mental Health offers a more detailed look at the symptoms associated with each type of mood episode.
The sudden and severe mood changes associated with bipolar disorder can make it difficult for patients to hold jobs, maintain personal relationships, and otherwise lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Individuals with this brain disorder may also engage in risky behaviors during manic episodes or consider suicide during depressive episodes, making the establishment of an effective treatment program crucial for their well being.
The average age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25, though it also occurs at a much lower frequency in teens and children. Men and women are equally likely to be affected by the disorder. The severity of symptoms can vary greatly; some people are able to manage the condition very effectively with medication and therapy, while others may suffer from episodes of psychosis that include hallucinations or delusions.
While it’s impossible to pinpoint a definitive cause for bipolar disorder, most scientists agree that a combination of several risk factors is usually at play. Those factors may include structural or functional abnormalities in the brain, genetic predisposition, and a family history of relatives with bipolar disorder.
How is Bipolar Disorder Usually Treated?
Because this disorder can vary so significantly in the manifestation and severity of symptoms, a multi-pronged approach to treatment is often the most beneficial. Prescription medication is an essential part of management for most patients; common medications include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Most patients also engage in some type of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, family-focused therapy, or psychoeducation. Sleep medications may also prove helpful if a patient struggles to maintain healthy sleep patterns. In some very severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy may provide relief for patients who haven’t had success with other treatments.
How Does CBD Oil for Bipolar Disorder Work?
With such a wide variety of potential treatments available for this condition, you may wonder why medical professionals continue to seek alternative options. Because this is a complex and lifelong condition with no known cure, many patients experiment with a number of treatments over the years, and their needs may change with time. For that reason, new treatments—like CBD—are always of interest to patients, their families, and their doctors.
Research on the relationship between CBD and bipolar disorder starts with the endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors throughout the body that helps to regulate mood, sleep, pain, inflammation, memory, and other essential bodily processes. These receptors are triggered by compounds called cannabinoids, which may be produced within the body or introduced via natural or synthetic substances like CBD. When an imbalance occurs in the endocannabinoid system, it can adversely affect regions of the brain that regulate mood, sleep, and other facets of bipolar disorder. Introducing cannabis-derived compounds like CBD may help to resolve endocannabinoid imbalances, thus reducing the symptoms of this brain disorder. Here are the results of some early studies that explore this potential connection:
- A 2005 study noted that CBD inhibited serotonin reuptake in rats, suggesting that it could repair abnormalities in endocannabinoid receptors. If this functionality is the same in human brains, CBD could provide a treatment option that’s similar to conventional antidepressants.
- A clinical trial from King’s College London revealed that CBD reduced the symptoms of patients experiencing psychosis.
- A study from 2010 found that “cannabis use was associated with better neurocognitive function” in patients with bipolar disorder.
- A study of 133 patients with bipolar disorder showed consistent improvement of energy levels and mood stability in subjects treated with CBD.
The highly promising results of these studies suggest that CBD could be a valuable alternative treatment or a supplement to existing medications for patients with bipolar disorder. While additional research is required to establish a definitive link, existing studies indicate that CBD could have positive effects on endocannabinoid system function, helping patients regulate their mood, energy levels, and even episodes of psychosis.
Although these studies are encouraging for patients with bipolar disorder, it’s important to note that you should not begin taking CBD for this condition without oversight from a medical professional. Your doctor can discuss the latest research on CBD, help you determine the correct dosage, and note if there are any potential interactions between CBD and the medications you are currently taking.
What’s the Right CBD Dosage for Bipolar Disorder?
If you’re interested in trying CBD to alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder, you likely wonder what dose is right for you. Because CBD is a relatively new option for medical treatments, dosages haven’t yet been standardized. In general, it’s best to start with the smallest possible dose and increase the quantity slowly until you begin to see effects.
Many CBD products—like CBD oil, pills, or gummies—include a recommended dosage on the packaging. For most adults, this can be a safe starting point. It’s also important to avoid any formulations that contain a blend of CBD and THC; while research suggests that CBD-only products are a low-risk option, meanwhile THC may exacerbate manic symptoms.
Though this disorder affects a relatively small percentage of the population, it has difficult and life-changing repercussions for patients and their families. As doctors continue to seek the most effective treatments for this condition, CBD offers a new avenue of study and treatment that may hold promise in the years to come.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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