Approximately 2.8% of adults were diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the U.S. last year, while about 4.4% of adults are likely to experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. What’s more, recent reports by the National Alliance on Mental Illness show that nearly 10 million people in the US suffer from bipolar disorders. Treatment options for bipolar disorder are available, but they often have many side effects. This has necessitated the need for research to develop alternative options. Recently researchers have been looking at the effects of hemp on bipolar. Hemp contains many compounds, including a phytochemical known as cannabidiol.
Some studies suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) may help support neurotransmitter function and prevent brain damage. These properties may make hemp an ideal candidate to maintain stable moods and reduce bipolar’s severity.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Formerly called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental condition characterized by changes in moods, including hypomania or mania (emotional highs) and depression (lows). One experiences alternating episodes of low and high moods. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, glutamate, GABA, and serotonin interact in the brain to regulate our moods. It is the severe fluctuations of these neurotransmitters that are responsible for bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The International Bipolar Association explains that bipolar symptoms will often vary from person to person. While one may experience highs and lows simultaneously, another individual may experience an episode after months. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can cause unpredictable behavior and mood changes, causing life difficulty and distress.
Hypomania and Mania
These are distinct types of episodes with similar symptoms. Mania is more severe than hypomania and creates more noticeable issues at school and work. Mania may even cause psychosis, which typically requires hospitalization. Symptoms can include:
- Racing thoughts
- Talking excessively
- Less sleep
- Missing school or work
- Poor decision making
- Unusually upbeat
Major Depressive Episode
An individual may experience the following symptoms during a depressive episode:
- Sleeping problems or insomnia
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest in activities
- Depressed mood (emptiness, sadness, or hopelessness)
- Weight gain or loss
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
The exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, but several risk factors can lead to the disorder, including the following:
Bipolar disorder runs in families, and research suggests it could be hereditary. You may have an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder if a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, has the condition. However, research is still ongoing to determine the exact genes responsible for the condition.
Brain Function and Structure
Chemical imbalances in the brain are thought to lead to bipolar disorder. Neurotransmitters control the brain and evidence suggests that an imbalance in them can lead to the development of bipolar disorder symptoms. What’s more, evidence also suggests that low noradrenaline levels can cause depression and high noradrenaline levels can lead to mania.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can also be triggered by stressful situations such as:
- Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse
- Relationship breakdown
- Death of a loved one
- Drug abuse
- Physical illness
- Life problems with work, money, etc.
- Sleep disturbances
Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder: Do They Exist?
Treating bipolar disorder is difficult since it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause. However, psychiatric therapy is one treatment option that determines underlying mental stress and abuse, if any. Hormonal imbalances also need to be tested and treated.
Various pharmaceutical medications can provide symptomatic support including mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressant-antipsychotics.
There are numerous other options including support groups, counseling, nutritional support, sensory deprivation, and hospitalization when it comes to treating bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder and Hemp: Is There a Connection?
Cannabinoids are compounds found in one of the cannabis plants called hemp. Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant with a high concentration of CBD. CBD has gained a reputation because of its many potential benefits, including its anti-inflammatory properties. The full potential of CBD continues to be discovered, however, this compound is being widely used for its different effects.
A myriad of studies, including one by Zahinoor Ismail, point out that CBD could be an effective compound for managing mania. Another study published by the British Association for Psychopharmacology unearthed remarkable results in the self-treatment of bipolar affective disorder using cannabis. The study found that CBD was a better cannabinoid option than THC when it comes to managing bipolar. This is largely due to how differently CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system.
While the interactions of CBD and the endocannabinoid are still being researched, it is thought that CBD does not bind to the receptors. It may, however, influence the way in which the natural endocannabinoids work with these receptors. In contrast, THC is known for overstimulating the brain’s CB1 receptors.
What Does Research Say About the Effects of Hemp on Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
Endocannabinoid System and Bipolar Disorder
The endocannabinoid system consists of two receptors (CB1 and CB2) that are located throughout the body. Bipolar disorder might damage or misalign these neurons. The health of the endocannabinoid system is thought to be significantly linked to bipolar disorder. One study, by the Journal of Pharmacological Research, established a link between the development of bipolar disorder and an unhealthy endocannabinoid system. An unusual endocannabinoid system could imply that your body may not work correctly with present endocannabinoids or it’s not able to produce enough endocannabinoids.
These studies revealed that patients experienced significant mood problems and fluctuations when CB receptors were inhibited. Tests were also done on subjects with dysfunctional CB receptors, indicating the results were consistent with bipolar disorder. This suggests that CBD’s effects on the ECS may impact bipolar disorder, however, further research is required in this field.
CBD May Improve Mood Levels
A study of 133 participants discovered that CBD may significantly improve the moods of people with bipolar disorder. Participants experienced stable mood levels after imbibing 100 milligrams of CBD daily for weeks.
The participants also took neurological tests once the study was completed. The tests revealed improvements in verbal fluency, executive functioning, attention span, and memory recall due to daily consumption of CBD.
CBD May Have Neuroprotective Properties
CBD may act as a neuroprotective compound. It has the potential to reduce damage to the brain and nervous system whilst promoting the growth of neurons. Factors like genetic disorders, oxidative stress, traumatic events, and autoimmune disorders can cause temporary or permanent neural damage. CBD may help to protect brain cells from oxidative stress. What’s more, researchers believe there could be a relationship between brain damage and bipolar disorder.
CBD May Help Mitigate Triggers
Consumption of CBD may help alleviate the stress of situations like breakups, financial strains, or job losses. Stress is an underlying factor in mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder that can trigger manic episodes. CBD could maintain hormonal balance with the help of the endocannabinoid system to promote an overall calmness.
It’s important to note that while the above research shows promise on the effects of hemp, further research is needed to fully understand how hemp products, like CBD, can impact bipolar disorder.
Using CBD Safely
CBD has the potential to help ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder, including stress and sleeplessness. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC compared to marijuana, which has a 5% to 35% THC chemical makeup. Therefore, hemp products won’t make you “feel high” since it contains low amounts of THC. It may, however, give you a feeling of relief.
It isn’t advisable for people with bipolar disorder to use marijuana since it contains high levels of THC. You may, however, consider a full-spectrum CBD product which is high in CBD and low in THC. You can find hemp-derived products in a variety of forms including oils, edibles, or capsules.
Still, it is important to speak with your doctor before using CBD or hemp, especially if you’re looking to help manage your symptoms of bipolar disorder. Hemp products can interfere with certain medications and your doctor can best advise if CBD is a good fit for your routine.
CBD Dosage: How Much Should You Take?
Everyone responds differently to CBD, which is also why it’s important to speak with your doctor about dosage. It is recommended to start with a low dosage and gradually scale up over time until you find the right dose to relieve your symptoms.
Potential CBD Side-Effects
It is critical to find out the potential side effects of CBD, even though it is generally considered safe. Everyone is different, and a product may not work for you but exhibit tremendous benefits for another person. Some side effects of using CBD may include:
- Dry mouth
- Lower heart rate
- Reduced appetite
- Negative interactions with other medications
Bipolar disorder is difficult to treat since its exact cause is unknown. Studies are reporting positive results of hemp effects on bipolar, including improved mood. Still, further research is required on the extensive effects of hemp on bipolar disorder and its long-term use.
Today, many people are turning to CBD to ease symptoms for several conditions. CBD may even help ease symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and insomnia through its interaction with neurotransmitters and hormones.
Remember to first consult your doctor about the pros and cons before taking CBD supplements. Avoid supplements high in THC since they can worsen your bipolar symptoms.