Does CBD Oil Help Bipolar Depression

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CBD oil can help stabilize our mood & emotions. Here are the best CBD oils for bipolar & how they can help. CBD has been touted to help a number of mental health conditions. Learn if there is any evidence of CBD helping people with bipolar disorder. Proper brain functioning depends on the communication between neurotransmitters. CBD can promote balance in the nervous system, showing potential in the treatment of a bipolar disorder. Learn how to use CBD as a mood stabilizer.

CBD Oil for Bipolar Disorder: Does It Help, Dosage, & How to Use

Bipolar disorder is a condition involving unusual shifts in mood, focus, and energy.

There’s some evidence that CBD can help, but there are a few cautions to be aware of too.

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Bipolar disorder affects between 0.4% and 1.6% of the world’s population, according to recent reports. This means roughly 70 million people around the planet suffer from bipolar disorder to some degree.

There are treatment options available — however, they often come with a myriad of negative side-effects, and often don’t work at all.

Cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown to protect the brain from damage and support healthy neurotransmitter function. Through these effects, it’s believed to reduce the severity of the bipolar disorder and help those affected to maintain a more stable mood throughout the day.

Here, we’ll explore the role CBD plays in maintaining mood, how to use CBD for bipolar disorder, and when to avoid it.

Let’s get started.

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Updated on October 20, 2021

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The Benefits of CBD Oil For Bipolar Disorder

Using CBD for bipolar disorder isn’t a new concept, and there’s currently one phase II clinical trial underway comparing the long-term effects of CBD with the effects of a placebo in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In order to get to this stage of research, CBD needed to pass similar tests with flying colors. If it failed any of the studies prior to this phase II clinical trial, it wouldn’t have been approved for use in the study.

Previous studies found that CBD offers a clear benefit to mood disorders with little to no side-effects.

The benefits of CBD for bipolar disorder include:

  • Relieves common side effects such as anxiety or insomnia
  • Helps stabilize mood & alleviates depression
  • Regulates the endocannabinoid system (involved with the cause of bipolar disorder)

Although there are clear benefits to using CBD with bipolar disorder, there are some important cautions to be aware of before deciding if it’s right for you or not.

Best CBD Products For Bipolar Disorder

Caution #1: The Type of CBD Product You Use Matters

Some cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, including THC, can actually make bipolar disorder significantly worse. Therefore, it’s critical that the CBD product you purchase contains low levels of THC to avoid this.

For bipolar disorder, it’s recommended that only a high-grade, full-spectrum extract with third-party lab testing to confirm the cannabinoid profiles of the product is used.

The other option is to use a CBD isolate — which contains nothing but active CBD.

Caution #2. Other Medications Need to Be Considered

Bipolar disorder is usually treated with powerful antipsychotic drugs. These medications alter neurotransmitters in the brain. Users need to be cautious when taking other supplements, including herbs and nutritional supplements such as CBD oil because it can be difficult to predict how they interact with prescription medications.

Always consult your doctor before trying CBD for bipolar symptoms to check for drug-herb interactions.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels.

The root of the condition is the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, and others all fluctuate and interact throughout the day to regulate our moods.

Everybody’s mood fluctuates to some extent — we have periods of feeling joy and periods of discomfort and irritability. This is normal — however, in bipolar patients, these fluctuations are far more severe, often making it difficult to perform daily activities such as complete work or socially interact.

The specific neurotransmitters responsible for bipolar symptoms can vary, and in many cases, the exact cause is never truly identified.

This makes the condition hard to treat, and much of the treatment in a hospital is done through trial and error — patients try a drug and wait to see if it produces results. If not, they try the next one in line until they find something that relieves their symptoms.

Bipolar disorder causes episodes of extreme emotion that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks at a time. Episodes can range from mild to extreme.

There are three primary types of episodes experienced by those with bipolar disorder.

1. Manic Episodes

The brain is in a state of hyperactivation, which can make people seem intense or overly happy. During manic episodes, those affected tend to have a lot of energy. They can seem highly motivated and euphoric and tend to develop side-effects such as anxiety and insomnia.

Manic episodes can become dangerous as they can make people reckless and may bring negative side-effects such as paranoia, psychosis, or delusions.

2. Hypomanic Episodes

A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode — but tends to be less extreme. It’s often considered a halfway point between mania and depression.

People experiencing hypomania are often able to continue their normal responsibilities, but find it more challenging to avoid distraction or bursts of anxiety.

3. Major Depressive Episodes

Major depressive episodes are the opposite of manic episodes. It causes those affected to have low motivation. They may feel tired and sluggish and can feel severely depressed. They often go through periods of social isolation, and some experience thoughts of suicide or death.

The Causes of Bipolar Disorder

There’s no single cause of bipolar disorder. It’s a combination of many factors ranging from genetic inheritance to environmental and social influences.

Some of the Known Causes of Bipolar Disorder Include:

Are There Any Treatment Options For Bipolar Disorder?

Treating bipolar disorder is difficult because the cause is hard to determine.

The best treatment for the condition comes in the form of psychiatric therapy to determine potential triggers and underlying causes such as a history of abuse or mental stresses.

Other causes, such as hormone imbalances, should also be tested for and treated as necessary.

In terms of symptomatic support, there are a few pharmaceutical medications effective for treating bipolar disorder.

Medications Used to Control Bipolar Symptoms

  1. Mood stabilizers (lithium, valproic acid, carbamazepine)
  2. Antipsychotics (Abilify, Zyprexa, Latuda)
  3. Antidepressants (Sertraline)
  4. Antidepressant-antipsychotics (Symbyax)
  5. Anticonvulsants (Depakote, Tegretol)

Other Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

  1. Counseling
  2. Hospitalization during extreme episodes of mania or depression
  3. Nutritional support
  4. CBD supplementation
  5. Herbal medicine
  6. Removal of mental stresses
  7. Sensory deprivation
  8. Support groups

How to Use CBD for Bipolar Disorder Safely

CBD alleviates many of the common symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, there are also reports of people who had their symptoms magnified due to cannabis use. This is mainly due to the THC content in marijuana, which is neuro-stimulating and can aggravate symptoms.

For this reason, it’s not safe for people with bipolar disorder to consume marijuana that has a high THC content.

To use this supplement safely, it’s important to find CBD oils, capsules, or edibles confirmed to be low in THC and high in therapeutic CBD.

It’s also crucial that you speak with your doctor before taking CBD for bipolar disorder to make sure the compound won’t interact negatively with the medications you’re taking.

Once your doctor has approved you to start taking CBD to alleviate symptoms of bipolar disorder, you need to find the right product to use and determine the best dose of CBD.

There are many different ways you can take CBD. Here, we’ll discuss the most common options in detail and how they can be used alongside a bipolar diagnosis.

1. CBD Oils & Tinctures

CBD oils and tinctures are the most common forms of CBD supplementation because it allows for simple and precise dosing.

They’re made by mixing a CBD extract with oil. CBD oils easier to consume because pure CBD or cannabis resin comes as tiny crystals or a sticky, oily, resin — both of which make it difficult to measure the dose accurately.

As an oil, the dose is measured by counting the number of drops using the provided dropper.

CBD oils and tinctures come in a variety of potencies. It’s recommended that you choose a potency that best matches the dose you aim to take. Use our CBD oil dosage calculator to find your approximate dosage.

2. CBD Capsules

CBD capsules provide another popular method of consuming CBD. They take away a lot of the guesswork when it comes to dosing and make it easy to take your CBD on the go.

CBD capsules also come in both low-potency and high-potency options.

Many people who take a variety of capsules throughout the day with their other medications or supplements find this form the easiest to integrate into their daily routines.

3. CBD Edibles

CBD edibles are a great option for people who don’t like the taste of the oils or tinctures and want to avoid swallowing capsules.

They come in all different forms — from CBD-infused honey to CBD chocolates.

The only downside to edibles is that the amount of CBD they contain is often unreliable, making dosing inconsistent.

For a condition such as bipolar disorder, it’s important to be consistent with your CBD use — something that edibles aren’t always able to provide.

4. CBD E-Liquids & Vape Oils

CBD vape pens & vape oils provide the most efficient form of dosing because bioavailability through the lungs is much higher than it is through the digestive tract.

Vaping is a good option for people with bipolar disorder because it offers fast relief from symptoms. It’s also one of the most portable methods of taking CBD.

What’s The Dose of CBD Oil For Bipolar Disorder?

Deciding on the right dose of CBD can take some trial and error. Everybody responds to this compound differently, so a little bit of self-testing is needed to find the right dose. This is also the case with most of the pharmaceutical bipolar medications used.

It’s best to start with a low dosage and build up gradually over time until you find relief from your symptoms.

In most cases, people with bipolar disorder won’t start to experience benefits until they reach the medium- or high-strength doses. Some people even require doses outside the listed range. The only way to find out your optimal dose is to test it.

With that said, you can use our dosage calculator below to find the approximate dose based on your weight and desired strength.

General Dosage Ranges for Psychological Disorders
Low-Strength CBD Medium-Strength CBD High-Strength CBD
• Mild depression or anxiety
• Periods of higher-than-average stress
• Daily maintenance dose for asymptomatic bipolar disorder
• Moderate bipolar symptoms
• High stress
• Insomnia
• Depression
• Severe bipolar symptoms
• Anxiety
• Severe insomnia

Most bipolar patients take a medium- or high-strength dose of CBD — however, this can vary from one person to the next.

CBD for Bipolar Disorder: Does It Help?

Laura Dorwart is a health journalist with expertise in disability rights, mental health, and pregnancy-related conditions. She has written for publications like SELF, The New York Times, VICE, and The Guardian.

Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Erika Prouty, PharmD, is a professional community pharmacist who aids patients in medication management and pharmacy services in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Bipolar disorder refers to a group of mental health disorders that cause extreme highs and lows in mood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMS), 4.4% of adults in the United States experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.

A person with bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, experiences disruptive mood fluctuations that interfere with their daily functioning in relationships, work, school, and family life. These mood fluctuations usually include both “high highs,” such as mania and hypomania, and “low lows” in the form of depressive episodes.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been touted as a possible way of treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder. While there’s some evidence that CBD oil can help people with bipolar disorder, there hasn’t been enough research to establish its long-term safety and effectiveness.

Learn more about CBD for bipolar disorder, including its safety, effectiveness, drawbacks, and alternatives.

Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

What Is CBD?

CBD is one of the active ingredients in the Cannabis sativa plant (marijuana). Although it’s a chemical derived from marijuana, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In other words, CBD won’t get you “high” like THC.

CBD is believed to act on the body’s central nervous system to produce a calming, relaxing effect that could help with anxiety and other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder. Some evidence suggests that it also might have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Is CBD Addictive?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there’s no evidence of any risk of chemical dependency or addiction when it comes to CBD.

And while CBD’s legal restrictions vary from state to state, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has legalized its use for clinical trials. One product containing CBD—Epidiolex—was FDA approved in 2018 for use in the treatment of seizures in certain rare childhood epileptic disorders.

You can take CBD in various forms, including:

  • Oils
  • Tinctures (plant extracts dissolved in an alcohol solvent)
  • Tablets and capsules
  • Vaping
  • Edibles, such as gummies
  • Topicals, such as lotions and creams

Because CBD’s legal status varies so widely across the United States, it’s always wise to check your local and state laws before purchasing any product containing CBD.

The Science Behind CBD

CBD oil isn’t yet established as an evidence-based treatment for bipolar disorder. Research is ongoing, with many clinical trials underway.

However, it’s believed that CBD works by acting on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system isn’t yet entirely understood by researchers, but some believe it plays a role in many important functions, such as pain and mood regulation as well as inflammation.

Early research indicates that CBD might serve as a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder.

One 2020 review argues that CBD might be helpful in the treatment of depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder due to its calming, antidepressant effects.

A 2020 clinical trial suggests that CBD could be beneficial as an “adjunctive,” or supplemental, treatment for bipolar depression.

CBD has also been shown to have an anxiety-reducing effect and shows therapeutic potential in the treatment of addictions. This could be beneficial to people with bipolar disorder because many people with mood disorders also have comorbid mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders and substance use disorder.

CBD and Its Potential Benefits

CBD is being investigated for use in the treatment of a number of mental health disorders and neurological conditions. These include schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Drawbacks

There are certain drawbacks to taking CBD for bipolar disorder. People who use CBD products might experience a range of side effects, including:

CBD can also interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, and it can affect your liver enzymes.

If you take CBD, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know so they can warn you about any potential drug interactions or negative effects on your liver function. You also shouldn’t drink alcohol if you’re using CBD, as the interaction between the two substances could enhance their sedative effects.

There’s limited evidence in initial animal studies that the male reproductive system could be affected by CBD use. So if you’re trying to conceive, you might want to hold off on using CBD or ask your healthcare provider if CBD is safe to use.

Also, most products containing CBD aren’t regulated or approved by the FDA. This means that you can’t guarantee that what you buy is safe, pure, or high-quality. A CBD product could contain THC or even contaminants like pesticides, so choose carefully.

CBD Alternatives

There are many evidence-based alternatives to using CBD for bipolar disorder symptoms. Here are some of the many available alternative treatments for bipolar disorder:

  • Medication: There are a number of prescription medications available to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers such as lithium, as well as anticonvulsants and antipsychotic drugs, may be prescribed by a psychiatrist to help regulate your moods.
  • Psychotherapy:Talk therapy with a trusted psychotherapist, as well as support groups led by qualified mental health counselors, can help you work through the emotional and social challenges of living with bipolar disorder.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help people with bipolar disorder by releasing endorphins that improve their sense of well-being.
  • Relaxation and mindfulness techniques: Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, can have a calming effect and help you regulate your emotions in times of stress.
  • Sleep hygiene:Insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation can worsen the effects of bipolar disorder. Practicing good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night, can go a long way in curbing bipolar disorder symptoms.

Summary

Some researchers believe that CBD, a chemical compound derived from marijuana, could be helpful in treating some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.

Early evidence suggests that CBD oil could play a role in regulating mood and alleviating depression. Drawbacks can include mild to moderate side effects like nausea and fatigue, as well as potential drug interactions and negative effects on liver function.

Alternative treatments for bipolar disorder include prescription drugs, psychotherapy, mindfulness techniques, and lifestyle changes.

A Word From Verywell

CBD is widely believed to be safe and potentially effective in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. However, it’s not FDA approved as a treatment for bipolar disorder, and research into its benefits and long-term side effects is still ongoing.

If you decide to take CBD for bipolar disorder, make sure to let your healthcare provider know so they can warn you about any potential side effects or drug interactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Research on CBD and its potential interactions with other drugs is ongoing. There is some preliminary evidence that CBD could interact with lithium, which is frequently prescribed to people with bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer. This interaction could potentially cause lithium toxicity, a serious condition.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the chemical compounds (called “cannabinoids”) found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties; in other words, it won’t give you a “high.”

The only FDA-approved product containing CBD is a pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil called Epidiolex, which is used to prevent seizures in people with two different childhood epileptic disorders. Because most CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA, it’s important to check the product labels yourself.

Always check your CBD product’s certificate of analysis (COA) to see if it’s been tested for THC and contaminants. Also, CBD derived from hemp grown in the U.S. rather than overseas might be a safer bet in terms of the federal and local testing requirements.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder.

Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1

Khan R, Naveed S, Mian N, et al. The therapeutic role of cannabidiol in mental health: a systematic review. J Cannabis Res. 2020;2(2). doi:10.1186/s4438-019-0012-y

Oberbarnscheidt T, Miller NS. The impact of cannabidiol on psychiatric and medical conditions. J Clin Med Res. 2020;12(7):393-403. doi:10.14740/jocmr4159

Singh RK, Dillon B, Tatum DA, et al. Drug-drug interactions between cannabidiol and lithium. Child Neurol Open. 2020;7. doi:10.1177/2329048X20947896

CBD for Bipolar Disorder: Potential Treatment and Benefits

Communication between the neurotransmitters in your brain is a key player in mood stabilization. These chemical messengers help regulate your thoughts, feelings, mood, and behavior. But in order to function properly, they need to be balanced; otherwise, our brain will become either hyperactive or hypoactive. The frequent fluctuation between the activity of neurotransmitters may lead to a range of mood disorders, including bipolar disorder.

The driving force behind the functioning of neurotransmitters and their matching receptors is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The discovery of the ECS has given researchers new insight into the interaction between different chemicals in your body; what happens when the communication system fails; and how to potentially restore the neurochemical homeostasis.

Today we’ll cover the role of the endocannabinoid system in the development of the bipolar disorder, a pesky condition whose symptoms can negatively impact your daily life as well as people around you.

We’ll also explain how cannabidiol – CBD may contribute to healthy communication between neurotransmitters, thus reducing the severity of bipolar disorder.

Let’s jump right into this without further ado.

Bipolar Disorder and CBD

A 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine suggested that cannabis can improve cognitive functioning in people with mental disorders. Interestingly, the study tested low doses of high-THC cannabis strains (marijuana) (1). And while people with bipolar disorders may benefit from small amounts of THC, using intoxicants — even in moderate amounts — is a controversial approach among the sufferers and medical professionals.

However, THC is only one of the 115 identified cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The second major compound, CBD, is non-intoxicating and can actually counteract the psychoactive effects of THC. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, using CBD has the same antipsychotic and anticonvulsant properties as conventional bipolar disorder medications (2). Considering the lack of intoxicating effects, hemp-derived CBD oil will be a decent pick for bipolar sufferers.

CBD products sourced from hemp are more accessible due to the recent legal changes in hemp cultivation and sales. The US federal government legalized hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, which was de-scheduled from the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp is now an agricultural commodity that can be grown for a variety of purposes. Hemp-derived CBD is widely available without a prescription; you can find it in local organic stores, dispensaries, vape shops, and online.

Here’s how CBD can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

CBD as a Mood Stabilizer

CBD is touted for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Numerous studies have mentioned the anxiolytic and antidepressant-like properties of CBD oil. People use CBD to manage different types of mental disorders, including panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and more.

Below we share an explanation of the mechanisms behind CBD’s therapeutic effects.

CBD May Alleviate Manic Episode

People with bipolar disorder often show intense symptoms of mania, during which they feel highly motivated and filled with energy. In a 1998 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the authors concluded that cannabis users responded better to their herbal treatment than those given conventional medications. The study mentioned CBD as a promising treatment for bipolar disorder, although the results came from only one type of the condition — hypomania (3).

CBD Acts as a Natural Antidepressant

A 2007 study from the Journal of Neural Transmission correlated the depressive period of bipolar disorder with a low density of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain. CBD may help restore these receptors through the endocannabinoid system signaling, which would explain its positive effects on bipolar disorder (4).

CBD also interacts with the serotonin receptors that regulate mood and emotional processing. CBD oil can enhance mood by helping the body use serotonin more effectively. With sufficient levels of serotonin in the circulatory system, and with CBD oil helping prevent anxiety and regulate sleep, bipolar patients may prevent depressive disorders.

CBD Improves Stress Response

Most anxiety-related disorders derive from stress, and CBD oil appears to be one of the most effective natural stress relievers known to mankind. Stressed people with a history of mental disorders in their families will only increase their risk of bipolar disorder if proper stress management is ignored.

Taking CBD oil daily for bipolar disorder can effectively support the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating stress responses among many other physiological functions.

People Don’t Get Addicted to CBD

Traditional bipolar medications, such as Symbiax, lithoid, and benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin are typically prescribed for bipolar disorder. However, they have a long list of possible adverse reactions, not to mention the negative consequences of their long-term use. In this clash, cannabis compounds have a much better safety profile.

Some of the common side effects of pharmaceutical medications include their addictive potential, difficulty sleeping, manic depression, weight gain, and suicidal ideation.

The only side effects of CBD oil you might experience are dry mouth, changes in appetite, drowsiness, fatigue, and diarrhea. However, in normal doses, these effects are almost non-existent. Studies on the side effects of CBD oil have concluded that the compound is safe in regular use. Unlike traditional medications, CBD is not addictive and can’t lead to a fatal overdose. In fact, CBD has been shown by recent research to relieve withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse in those who have gone cold turkey (5).

The Role of Cannabinoid Neurotransmitters in Mood Stability

Your body produces the neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids — anandamide and 2-AG. These molecules interact with the endocannabinoid system, and their concentrations increase whenever the communication between the chemical messengers in your body gets disturbed. Your body also interacts with exogenous cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, such as hemp and marijuana. Both plants have their unique benefits, but marijuana has high levels of THC, which is an intoxicating compound. Hemp, on the other hand, comes with only 0.3% THC per dry mass, so using hemp-derived products like CBD oil won’t get you high.

Cannabinoids & Our Health

Plant-based cannabinoids mimic the effects of your endogenous cannabinoids, communicating with receptors in the ECS. The ECS is responsible for managing nearly every process and function in your body, including:

  • Cardiovascular function
  • Metabolism and energy
  • Mood and emotional processing
  • Neuroprotection and muscle movement
  • Pain perception and inflammation

The endocannabinoids in your body are produced for a short duration and your body doesn’t store them. The exogenous cannabinoids are more potent, longer-lasting, and they can also signal the production of the endocannabinoids — allowing them to circulate longer in the bloodstream.

Long story short, cannabinoids from the cannabis plant help keep our master regulatory network in good shape in order to maintain well-being.

When this network falls out of whack, it may give rise to a range of health concerns. There’s even a medical term, the endocannabinoid deficiency, where the efficacy of ECS is compromised to the point it becomes deficient in its natural cannabinoids.

Research suggests that CBD has the potential to reduce pain, lower inflammation, bolster the immune system, improve sleep, and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders, such as bipolar affective disorder. Studies of the endocannabinoid system are relatively new, but the results are promising.

Let’s make sure you’ve got a good understanding of bipolar disorder before we continue with the benefits of CBD for mental health.

Bipolar Disorder 101: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Bipolar disorder affects around 1.6 million Americans. It causes changes in a person’s mood, emotions, energy levels, behavior, and function. People with bipolar disorder experience extreme emotional states known as mood episodes. The complexity of the condition makes it easy to misdiagnose as depression.

The above episodes are broken down into manic, hypomanic, and depressive.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Researchers have yet to find the underlying cause of the bipolar disorder, although the most likely explanation involves imbalances between specific neurotransmitters in the brain. As mentioned earlier, bipolar disorder is difficult to treat. People usually go through trial and error, most often trying one medication and waiting to see if it improves the symptoms. If not, another drug is prescribed until the symptoms become manageable.

Some of the causes of bipolar disorders include:

  • Chronic depression
  • Severe mental stress
  • Hereditary factors (family history of bipolar disorder)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Imbalances in neurotransmitters
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Types of Bipolar Disorder & Their Symptoms

  • Manic Episodes – a manic episode occurs when the receptors in the brain are overstimulated by the neurotransmitters. During a manic event, those with bipolar disorders experience a surge of energy, showing signs of being euphoric and highly motivated. The overexcitation may lead to a short attention span, recklessness, anxiety, and insomnia. Manic episodes may also cause paranoia, delusions, and psychosis.
  • Hypomanic Episodes –During a hypomanic episode, a person goes through a less severe version of the manic episode, often being put between mania and depression. Those under the influence of a hypomanic episode struggle with anxiety and distractor, although they’re usually able to complete their daily tasks.
  • Major Depressive Episodes – a major depressive episode involves the opposite symptoms of mania. It results in low motivation, feelings of sluggishness, low energy levels, and depression. This type of bipolar disorder is also accompanied by social isolation and suicidal thoughts.

How Is Bipolar Disorder Typically Treated?

Treating bipolar disorder is difficult because it is a multifaceted problem. The best approach to the problem is a combination of counseling and psychiatric care. Psychotherapy helps patients determine behavioral problems, such as high mental stress or a history of substance abuse. Other contributors, such as hormonal imbalances, should also be analyzed and treated pharmacologically.

Doctors usually prescribe the following medications for bipolar disorder:

  • Mood stabilizers (carbamazepine, lithium, valproic acid)
  • Antipsychotics (Abilify, Latuda, Zyprexa)
  • Antidepressants (Sertraline)
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotics (Symbyax)
  • Anticonvulsants (Depakote, Tegretol)

However, these medications often have dangerous side effects. For this reason, people have started seeking help in complementary treatments, such as sensory deprivation, elimination of mental stresses, nutritional adjustments, support groups, herbal medicine, and CBD supplementation.

Below we share the current scientific findings regarding the use of CBD for bipolar disorder.

Pros & Cons of Using CBD Oil for Bipolar Disorder

The Pros:

  • In vitro studies show that CBD is a neuroprotectant, including reduction of oxidative stress and free radical damage. These factors are believed to contribute to the development of the bipolar disorder (6).
  • CBD promotes healthy stress responses. It can also alleviate both acute and chronic anxiety.
  • CBD is an anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation may damage neurons in the brain, leading to imbalances in neurotransmitters. The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD have been found in both animal and human studies.
  • CBD is non-intoxicating, so it won’t get you high. This is a particularly valuable trait, as intoxicants are known for increasing the risk of aggravating the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • You can’t get addicted to CBD.
  • CBD doesn’t have the serious side effects associated with commonly prescribed antipsychotics.

The Cons

  • The CBD market is largely unregulated, so there’s a risk of buying a mislabeled product that contains significant amounts of THC, even if the label states otherwise.
  • Much of the evidence supporting the benefits of CBD for bipolar disorder comes from animal studies and preclinical human trials. More clinical studies are needed to determine whether the effects of CBD are consistent on large groups of the population.

How to Use CBD for Bipolar Disorder?

  • CBD Oil – CBD oil is the most common form of cannabidiol due to its ease of use and dosage precision. CBD oil contains hemp extract and food-grade inert oil. The infusion in the carrier oil boosts the bioavailability of CBD, allowing lower doses to remain effective. Such a product is easier to apply and dose. CBD oil is taken under the tongue, where the user holds it for up to a minute before swallowing.
  • CBD Capsules – Capsules are a good choice if you dislike the natural taste of CBD oil. They also take away the guesswork associated with dosing CBD in the liquid form because each capsule contains a premeasured dose. All you need to do is take as many capsules as you need to match your dosage and swallow them down with water. Since capsules need to pass through the digestive system, they have a delayed onset, usually kicking in after 40–90 minutes.
  • CBD Edibles – Edibles like gummies and honey sticks provide a fun way to supplement CBD. The only concern when it comes to CBD edibles is the lower potency of the final dose. Similar to capsules, edibles need to be processed in your gut before they can be released into the bloodstream, so dosing is often inconsistent and unreliable.
  • CBD Vape Pens – if you’re looking for the most efficient of all consumption methods in terms of dosing, then CBD vape pens will be your best bet. Vaporized CBD shows the highest bioavailability because it enters the bloodstream through the lungs. As a result, the CBD acts within minutes after inhalation. Vaping is a good choice for people with bipolar disorder because it provides consistent dosage and fast symptom relief.

How Often Should You Take CBD for Bipolar?

Consistency is an essential component of successful bipolar disorder treatment. Only by being consistent can you manage the symptoms of the condition and level the endocannabinoid deficiencies in your system, which is one of the probable causes of bipolar disorder.

For the best results, you should take CBD a few times a day depending on the route of administration. CBD oils provide relatively long-lasting effects, up to 6 hours, allowing the user to split the dosage into two servings. For products like CBD hemp flowers or CBD vapes, you’ll probably need to use them more often, as vaporized CBD has a shorter duration, usually between 3–4 hours.

How Much CBD to Take for Bipolar Disorder?

Finding the optimal dosage range for your situation will require some experimenting. Everybody is different, so a dose that works for your friend may not necessarily be enough to relieve your symptoms. Self-testing is an inevitable part of that process, but the goal is to minimize the number of errors.

Most experts recommend starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it until you find the desired relief from your bipolar disorder. Many bipolar patients experience benefits upon reaching a medium- or high-strength dose. The amount of CBD oil you’ll need to notice the positive change depends on the severity of your symptoms and your overall health. The only way to determine your effective dosage range is to try it out.

You can start by taking 10 mg twice a day — in the morning and in the evening — and observe the effects for one week. It’s good to keep a dosage journal where you will keep notes of how you feel after each dose, and whether or not it alleviates your symptoms. If you find no change after that time, add another 10 mg to your routine and continue the trial. Once you’ve reached the sweet spot, you can lock in at that dosage.

Is CBD Safe?

Taking CBD for bipolar disorder doesn’t carry a risk of life-threatening side effects. In fact, CBD has been mentioned by several studies as a safe and well tolerable compound. In humans, examined dosages ranged between 300–1,500 mg of CBD daily. However, there are a few mild reactions you should keep in mind when using CBD oil for bipolar disorder. Since most people with the condition benefit from medium- to high-strength doses, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Diarrhea

CBD-drug interactions are also possible, so we encourage you to visit a doctor knowledgeable about CBD and cannabis to avoid these interactions. A qualified professional will also help you establish the right dosage regime to maximize the benefits of your treatment.

CBD vs Lithium: Which is Better for Bipolar Treatment?

CBD is praised for its ability to stabilize mood and alleviate anxiety. Anecdotal reports, as well as clinical evidence, indicate that CBD produces the same effects as some other bipolar medication and antidepressants.

Like we said, CBD has remarkable antioxidant properties and neuroprotective effects which may help patients with bipolar disorder without causing dangerous adverse effects. There are also studies suggesting that CBD acts similarly to atypical and antipsychotic drugs, thereby producing mood-stabilizing and anticonvulsant effects.

Lithium is prescribed for treating certain types of depression, especially bipolar one. It’s effective and has been used for decades by psychiatrists. Despite its mood-stabilizing properties, scientists aren’t sure how these effects are exactly produced. Nevertheless, studies have proven that lithium-based medications can reduce the frequency of suicidal thoughts during manic episodes. These properties have been attributed to lithium’s interaction with a certain nervous system, increasing the number of neurotransmitters that help balance mood. Lithium also strengthens nerve connections, translating into a better regulation of emotions.

However, lithium also has dangerous side effects. Approximately 70% of bipolar patients treated with lithium experience negative reactions. Although most of them are minor, common side effects of taking lithium include acne, diarrhea, poor memory, and weight gain. High doses of lithium are associated with ringing ears, poor muscle control, and blurry vision. Hypothyroidism is another potential side effect of long-term lithium treatment. It can also give rise to rare but severe kidney illnesses. None of these side effects were observed during the studies examining the safety and efficacy of CBD.

Summarizing the use of CBD for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can negatively impact your daily life. The condition is not only challenging to diagnose but also difficult to treat, often involving a series of trial-and-error with different pharmaceutical medications. Some of these drugs are simply ineffective, while others pose a threat to one’s health with long-term use.

People are now turning to natural remedies for bipolar disorder, one of them being CBD oil. Some studies suggest CBD can be a safe and effective alternative to conventional treatments. CBD indirectly affects different neurotransmitters and hormones, balancing their activity, and thus helping the body maintain its homeostasis, especially in the central nervous system. Researchers are wondering if CBD can address the probable underlying cause of bipolar disorder — the clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Studies on animal models, as well as preclinical human trials, have shown promising results in this regard.

If you’re considering adding CBD oil as a complementary treatment for bipolar disorder, make sure to consult the idea with your doctor. You should also do your research on your potential vendors, as no two CBD oils are the same. The CBD market lacks regulation when it comes to manufacturing and labeling standards, and some brands are very liberal when it comes to health claims and the cannabinoid content of their products.

Did you try CBD oil for bipolar disorders? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Literature:

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  4. Koethe, D et al. “Expression of CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the anterior cingulate cortex in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.” Journal of neural transmission (Vienna, Austria : 1996) vol. 114,8 (2007): 1055-63. doi:10.1007/s00702-007-0660-5
  5. Prud’homme, Mélissa et al. “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence.” Substance abuse: research and treatment vol. 9 33-8. 21 May. 2015, doi:10.4137/SART.S25081
  6. Machado-Vieira, Rodrigo et al. “Oxidative stress parameters in unmedicated and treated bipolar subjects during an initial manic episode: a possible role for lithium antioxidant effects.” Neuroscience letters vol. 421,1 (2007): 33-6. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2007.05.016
Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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