CBD and Bipolar Disorder

By Dr. Nicole Cain
Sep 10, 2019
8:00 am

There is a lot of talk recently about CBD for depression, CBD for bipolar disorder, and CBD for anxiety. In this series of blogs our experts have done the footwork for you. We’ve studied the good, the bad, and the not-so-good about CBD as medicine, so you don’t have to!

Today we’re going to talk about CBD for bipolar disorder.

Let’s start with a quick introduction to cannabinoids.

What are cannabinoids?

Plant cannabinoids are compounds that are isolated from the cannabis plant. In fact, there are over 100 different types of cannabinoids and they all have their unique impact on your brain and body. Two of the most recognized cannabinoids from the cannabis plant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) (Compassionate Certification Centers, 2018).

Here’s something you might not know: Your body also makes its own natural cannabinoids! These are called anandamide and 2-AG.

As mentioned, each cannabinoid has its own unique action. THC, for example, is responsible for the “high” that those get when they use cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, does not make you “high.” (Compassionate Certification Centers, 2018).

But what is CBD, and what is CBD good for?

In order to answer that, we have to understand a little bit of physiology…

What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

There is a system in the body called the endocannabinoid system. The word endocannabinoid comes from: Endo and cannabinoid. Endo is short for endogenous or naturally made inside your body, and the cannabinoid is a cannabis-like substance. So endocannabinoid is a word that refers to the cannabis-like substances that our bodies produce.

The endocannabinoid system or ECS is comprised of three parts:

  • The cannabinoid chemicals themselves
  • The cannabinoid receptors around your brain and body
  • Enzymes that break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids

The ECS is an extremely important system and has many roles in your body. Among the most important roles of the ECS is its job maintaining your body’s homeostasis (aka balance).

An analogy that may be helpful in understanding the importance of the ECS in regulating homeostasis is how the mechanics of an airplane keeps the cabin in homeostasis during all parts of the flight. The cabin pressure stays relatively consistent when you are on the tarmac just as it does when you are 30,000 feet in the air. This adaptation in the computers of the plane are complex and life-saving for you.

Your body is always working to maintain homeostasis. Is your blood pressure at the right level? Is your body temperature too high or too low? Monitoring and keeping your blood sugars stable during fasting states and after eating a large meal. All that and more are regulated by the ECS. Your body is a master in maintaining homeostasis and the ECS is an important part of that.

What does the Endocannabinoid System do?

Some functions of the ECS are in regulation of your mood, stress responses, metabolism, energy, memory and learning, sleep and wake cycles, reproductive function, and pain perception and inflammation. When the body is out of balance, unregulated and developing symptoms associated with acute and chronic disease, treatments that support the ECS can be profoundly helpful.

Cannabis & CBD For Bipolar Disorder Treatment

As discussed, supporting the ECS can be profoundly valuable in the treatment of symptoms in the body and mind. In this section we will specifically discuss the literature as it refers to CBD for bipolar disorder treatment.

Earlier in this article we discussed how the body has an endocannabinoid system comprised of cannabinoid chemicals, cannabinoid receptors and enzymes that function to metabolize and process the cannabinoid so that they can be used by the body. Cannabis acts on the ECS directly and many studies have shown that cannabis specifically has helped aid in regulating this system, promoting homeostasis and leading to symptom relief (Cannabis Conversations, 2016).

The research on cannabis for bipolar disorder in particular has shown that cannabis has been shown to help symptoms of depression and mania in bipolar disorder.

CBD in particular has been shown to elicit the same responses in the human body as of the medications typically used for bipolar treatment. In a study done with 133 participants who had bipolar supplemented with CBD daily over numerous weeks and reported “consistent energy” as well as “stable mood levels” throughout the day.”

Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a pediatrician, has seen the use of CBD oil to relieve anxiety symptoms in teenage patients who previously were unable to function in their daily lives.

In a study by Linge and colleagues (2016), CBD was found to have “fast antidepressant-like actions” as it increased cortical serotonin (Linge et al, 2016, p. 16). It was able to achieve this quickly and with little to no side effects or risk of mania.

In addition to CBD improving anxiety, lifting depression, stabilizing energy in those with bipolar disorder, insomnia, depression and anxiety, and CBD is useful for sleep.

CBD oil has shown to be an amazing solution for those dealing with insomnia. This can occur in mania as well as depression in bipolar disorder. CBD works to increase sleep quality as it increased slow-wave sleep (SWS) (Ferguson & Ware, 2015). CBD also aided in wakefulness as participants had gotten a better nights rest from the CBD (Ferguson & Ware, 2015). According to Whiteley (2017), CBD being administered with THC could improve sleep even better than medications. However, long and heavy lasting “consumption” of “THC-dominant cannabis” could dysregulate a healthy sleep pattern (Whiteley, 2017).

To summarize the research:

  • CBD stabilizes moods
  • CBD can work to relieve anxiety
  • CBD has a fast antidepressant effect
  • CBD increases serotonin
  • CBD helps you get a better night’s sleep
  • CBD improves energy and wakefulness during the day
  • CBD does not make you high

Cannabis, specifically the compound CBD, can greatly aid in the treatment of mood disorders; especially bipolar disorder. All this being said, it is important to assess if CBD is the right fit for you. There is no magic pill and it is not a one-size-fits-all. However, if your symptoms are due in part due to a dysregulated ECS, than CBD just might be the solution you have been looking for.

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