Medical marijuana benefits patients suffering from so many diverse conditions that it is natural for this question to arise: “Does marijuana help bipolar disorder or worsen it?” Scientific debates on this issue continue, as some studies suggest that cannabis use worsens bipolar symptoms, while others reveal that marijuana brings antipsychotic benefits to patients with bipolar disorder.
A 2015 study carried out by the researchers at Lancaster University (UK) discovered that such symptoms of bipolar disorder as depression and mania may be worsened by marijuana use.
Researchers investigated the diaries of 24 bipolar patients to whom physicians prescribed treatment with medical cannabis at least three times a week. During this treatment process, participants recorded their mood in a special diary aimed to reduce the patient's memory bias. Analyzing the patients' diary entries, scientists found that though marijuana use was associated with positive emotions, its use also increased depressive and manic symptoms.
However, the results were not pervasive enough, as the study was limited by a small number of participants and included no control group. Moreover, the patients were not in the middle of a depressive or manic episode when they took cannabis. In addition, the study did not take into account dose amounts and methods of marijuana delivery that could also change the final results.
Studying bipolar disorder and marijuana use, scientists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) found a therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in treating the bipolar affective disorder. However, the study findings require further investigation of bipolar patients’ responds to marijuana and the complex nature of the bipolar disease.
A recently published study of American scientists investigated the impact of marijuana on the mood of bipolar patients and whether cannabis had an additional negative effect on cognitive function.
During the study, researchers looked into the influence of cannabis on the mood of patients with bipolar disorder divided into four groups: 12 participants who smoked weed, 18 patients who did not consume marijuana, 23 pot consumers without other Axis 1 pathology, and 21 healthy participants of the control group. All participants rated their mood three times a day and after each cannabis intake over a four-week period.
The study results revealed that all patients who consumed marijuana experienced some degree of cognitive impairment compared to the control group. However, bipolar patients who smoked cannabis and the non-smokers had no significant differences in their states confirming that marijuana did not cause any additional negative impact on their cognition. In addition, the group of bipolar patients who smoked marijuana reported improvement of their mood after using cannabis. Researchers explained such mood improvement as partial alleviation of bipolar symptoms that did not lead to additional cognitive impairment.
Though this study shows promising results in marijuana use for treating bipolar disorder, more thorough research is still required to show marijuana physicians a much larger picture of cannabis effects.