CBD for Bipolar: Treatment, Effectiveness, Alternatives
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 have bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.
A person with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, experiences disruptive mood swings that interfere with daily functioning in relationships, work, school, and home life. These mood swings typically 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 to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Although there is some evidence that CBD oil can help people with bipolar disorder, there has not been enough research to establish its long-term safety and effectiveness.
Learn more about CBD for bipolar disorder, including its safety, effectiveness, downsides, and alternatives.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the active ingredients in Cannabis-sativa plant (marijuana). Although it is a chemical derived from marijuana, CBD does not 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 and relaxing effect that may help with anxiety and other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder. Some evidence suggests it may also have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
Is CBD addictive?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence of a risk of chemical dependence 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. A CBD-containing product, Epidiolex, was approved by the FDA in 2018 for use in the treatment of seizures in certain rare childhood seizure disorders.
You can take CBD in different forms, including:
- Tinctures (plant extracts dissolved in an alcoholic solvent)
- Tablets and capsules
- Edibles, such as gummies
- topicals, such as lotions and creams
Since the legal status of CBD varies 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 is not yet established as an evidence-based treatment for bipolar disorder. Research is ongoing, with many clinical trials underway.
However, CBD is believed to work by affecting the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is not yet fully 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 may serve as a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder.
A 2020 review argues that CBD may be useful in treating depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder due to its calming and antidepressant effects.
A 2020 clinical trial suggests that CBD may be beneficial as an “add-on” or complementary treatment for bipolar depression.
CBD has also been shown to have an anxiolytic effect and show therapeutic potential in the treatment of addictions. This could be beneficial for people with bipolar disorder, as many people with mood disorders also have comorbid mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.
CBD and its potential benefits
CBD is being studied for use in the treatment of a number of mental health conditions and neurological disorders. These include schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are some downsides to taking CBD for bipolar disorder. People who use CBD products may 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’re taking CBD, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider so they can alert you to any potential drug interactions or negative effects on your liver function. You should also not drink alcohol if you are using CBD, as the interaction between the two substances could enhance their sedative effects.
There is limited evidence from initial animal studies that the male reproductive system may be affected by CBD use. So if you are trying to conceive, you may want to discontinue use of CBD or ask your health care provider if CBD is safe to use.
Additionally, most products containing CBD are neither regulated nor approved by the FDA. This means that you cannot guarantee that what you are buying is safe, pure or of high quality. A CBD product may contain THC or even contaminants like pesticides, so choose carefully.
Alternatives to CBD
There are many evidence-based alternatives to using CBD for bipolar disorder symptoms. Here are some of the many alternative treatments available for bipolar disorder:
- Medication: There are a number of prescription medications available to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers such as lithium, along with anticonvulsants and antipsychotics, may be prescribed by a psychiatrist to help regulate your mood.
- Psychotherapy: Talk therapy with a trusted psychotherapist, along with support groups led by trained mental health counselors, can help you overcome 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 regulate your emotions during times of stress.
- Sleep hygiene: Insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation can worsen the effects of bipolar disorder. Adopting good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night, can go a long way in reducing the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Some researchers believe that CBD, a chemical compound derived from marijuana, may be helpful in treating some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.
Early evidence suggests that CBD oil may play a role in regulating mood and alleviating depression. Downsides 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 medications, psychotherapy, mindfulness techniques, and lifestyle changes.
A word from Verywell
CBD is widely considered safe and potentially effective in treating various mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. However, it is not FDA-approved as a treatment for bipolar disorder, and research into its long-term benefits and side effects is still ongoing.
If you decide to take CBD for bipolar disorder, be sure to let your healthcare provider know so they can alert you to any potential side effects or drug interactions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does CBD interact with bipolar medications?
Research on CBD and its potential interactions with other medications is ongoing. There is preliminary evidence that CBD may 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 illness.
What is the difference between CBD and cannabis?
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 has no psychoactive properties; in other words, it won’t give you a “high”.
How to find a high quality CBD product?
The only FDA-approved CBD-containing product is a pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil called Epidiolex, which is used to prevent seizures in people with two different childhood seizure disorders. Since most CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, it is important to check product labels yourself.
Always check your CBD product’s Certificate of Analysis (COA) to see if it has been tested for THC and contaminants. Additionally, CBD derived from hemp grown in the United States rather than overseas might be a safer bet in terms of federal and local testing requirements.