The Potential Benefits of CBD for the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Your brain relies on neurotransmitters, in specific chemical combinations, to regulate your moods, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
The driving force behind your system of neurotransmitters and their corresponding receptors is called your endocannabinoid system. Thanks to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, researchers now have a better understanding of how brain chemicals interact and communicate, what happens when the communication system fails, and how to potentially restore the communication processes.
The Neurotransmitters that Influence Your Endocannabinoid System
Your body makes the neurotransmitters that regulate this vital system. They are called endocannabinoids because they are processed within. Your two main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG.
Your body also responds to exogenous cannabinoids, cannabinoids from an outside source. Exogenous cannabinoids are found in the extract (CBD) of the cannabis plants, hemp, and marijuana. Both plants are equally beneficial, but marijuana has high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is a psychoactive cannabinoid, hemp does not. You will not get high from hemp CBD oil.
The Many Functions of Your Endocannabinoid System
Exogenous cannabinoids mimic the effects of your endocannabinoids, interacting and communicating with receptors throughout your endocannabinoid system. Your endocannabinoid system is responsible for nearly every function and process in your body. Just some of the functions regulated by this system include:
- Your moods and emotional responses
- Stress responses and anxiety
- Metabolism and energy
- Neuroprotection and muscle movement
- Memory and learning
- Sleep cycles
- Reproductive function
- Pain perception and inflammation
- Cardiovascular function
The endocannabinoids in your body are produced as needed and quickly broken down by enzymes. The exogenous cannabinoids from CBD are stronger and longer lasting.
The Potential Consequences of System Imbalance
Because your endocannabinoid system is crucial to so many vital functions, some researchers are suggesting that many health concerns could be the result of imbalances within the endocannabinoid system. This theory could explain why the research into supplementing the endocannabinoid system with CBD is showing so many potential benefits.
Research shows that CBD has the potential to alleviate pain, improve sleep, reduce inflammation, and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders, including bipolar affective disorder. While the study of the endocannabinoid system is relatively new, the results have been quite fascinating.
Understanding the Basics of Bipolar Disorders
Bipolar disorders cause marked changes in a persons mood, behavior, energy levels, and function. Those living with a bipolar disorder experience extreme, intense emotional states, referred to as mood episodes. Due to the complexity of the condition, bipolar disorder often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as depression. Episodes of extreme emotion can be classified as manic, hypomanic or depressive.
A manic episode is a period where a person has more energy than usual. They may seem high-spirited, very happy, or irritable. During a manic episode, a person may sleep less, have racing thoughts or engage in risky behaviors, like spending sprees or reckless driving. A manic mood episode may be severe enough to cause problems with work, family, social relationships and interfere with responsible behavior. Manic episodes may also progress to paranoia, delusions or psychosis.
Symptoms of hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, though less severe. Hypomania does not cause as many potential problems as mania, and the person living with hypomania is typically still able to function.
Major Depressive Episodes
A depressive episode is classified as a period where a person has lost interest in activities they previously enjoyed, experiences feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt. During a depressive episode, a person may experience extreme fatigue and sleep disturbances. Concentration levels or decision-making processes may be impaired. Some may have thoughts of suicide or death.
The Medications Typically Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder
Some people living with bipolar disorder may only experience a few cycles of episodes in their entire lifetime, while others will cycle through both extremes of the disorder daily. Treatment typically involves a combination of support programs, psychiatric counseling, and possibly hospitalization to get a severe manic or depressive episode stabilized with medications. Some of the medications typically used to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Mood Stabilizers to control manic or hypomanic episodes (lithium, valproic acid, carbamazepine)
- Antipsychotics- if manic symptoms or depression persist (Abilify, Zyprexa, Latuda)
- Antidepressants – usually prescribed with a mood stabilizer to avoid triggering a manic episode
- Anti depressant-antipsychotic – depression treatment with a mood stabilizer (Symbyax)
- Anticonvulsants – to control manic episodes and depression ( Depakote, Tegretol)
While antidepressants, anticonvulsants and anti-psychotic medication are typically used for bipolar symptoms, finding the optimal combination of drugs can be tricky. Treating the symptoms of one aspect of the disorder can trigger the other. More than half of those living with bipolar do not feel that their medications alleviate their symptoms, many stop taking their medications.
Some give up taking medications because of the side effects, some for the high costs, and others because they believe they no longer need them. While many eventually return to taking prescription medications, some patients look to diet, exercise or supplementing their neurotransmitters and receptors with CBD from non-psychoactive hemp, for the potential benefits of mood stabilization.
The Potential Benefits of CBD for the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
While there are currently few studies on the use of CBD for bipolar disorder, CBD appears to generate the same type of response in the body as many of the medications used to treat the condition. The neuroprotective and antioxidative benefits of CBD may also help to alleviate the symptoms of bipolar and increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels.
It’s not difficult to find testimony from people living with bipolar disorder crediting CBD for relieving their symptoms, or reducing the side effects of their current medications. While testimonies are anecdotal, their findings appear to be backed by scientific evidence.
- A federally funded research study neurologically assessed 133 patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The test subjects took 100 mg of CBD daily over the course of several weeks. All 133 participants reported feeling consistent energy levels throughout the day and stable mood levels. At the end of the study, their neurological tests were administered Each of the participants showed remarkable improvement in attention, verbal fluency, executive functioning and logical- memory recall.
- An animal study investigating the anti-depressive qualities of CBD concluded that CBD reduced the symptoms of depression by influencing cortical serotonin, glutamate levels, and 5-HT1A receptors. CBD also appears to reduce symptoms of psychosis and normalizes the functions affecting psychiatric patients. This appears to be due to the interaction of CBD with serotonin receptors.
- In vitro studies show that CBD provides neuroprotection, including the oxidative stress and free radical damage, significant factors believed to contribute to the development of bipolar CBD also appears to trigger an action similar to lithium, a mood stabilizer used to combat symptoms. The results suggest that initial manic episodes may be triggered by increased oxidative stress and the activation of antioxidant defenses theoretically related to dysfunctional energy metabolization and neuroplasticity.
Research also suggests that CBD appears to act similarly to atypical antipsychotic drugs without the potentially serious and long-term side effects, by providing anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing benefits, similarly to the medications used to treat manic episodes. CBD is also shown to have value as a low-risk antidepressant that is unlikely to interfere with prescription medications.
CBD as a Natural Dietary Supplement
It’s important to remember that CBD is not a cure or treatment for any disorder. CBD is not a medication; it is a dietary supplement with the potential to supplement the neurotransmitters and influence the receptors that regulate your moods, emotions, and nearly every important function regulated by your endocannabinoid system.
The information supporting the use of CBD from hemp is based on research results, animal studies and the testimonies of those who claim benefits from CBD supplements. If you have a medical condition or take medication, it is important to discuss the potential benefits of CBD with your healthcare provider. CBD is known to interact with some medications.