How Cannabis Helps with Bipolar Disorder
When we talk about the benefits of medical cannabis, we tend to focus on physical disorders: cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, etc. But medical cannabis patients also commonly use cannabis to help with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety. And lately, more and more patients have been talking openly about using cannabis to treat bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by swings between a manic state of elevated mood and increased energy and a depressed state of hopelessness and fatigue. The main treatments are psychotherapy and lithium, a mood stabilizer that can have undesirable side effects. Many patients looking for a better treatment have turned to cannabis.
Recently Gradi Jordan wrote a moving account of her struggles with bipolarity on Ladybud. She first used cannabis to treat her disorder at the age of ten, after in a fit of mania she had tried to stab her brother and take a door off its hinges.
“My mother told me I needed cannabis to calm down, or she would call the cops and have me arrested,” she explains. “This was my reality and the beginning of my appreciation and respect for cannabis.”
Jordan long used cannabis to treat her disorder, but she lives in Utah, where there is no medical cannabis, and underground cannabis is expensive. When she loses access to cannabis, her mental state deteriorates rapidly:
“When unable to afford or access cannabis, I tend to decompensate quickly and usually end up being forcibly admitted to lock down psychiatric facilities where numerous pharmaceuticals are pumped into my system, often times without my full consent or even knowledge. I eventually wind up having to undergo Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) as a last-ditch effort,” she says.
The ECT has taken a terrible toll on her mental health—she lost her memory, her concentration, and even her ability to read and write. She lost her job with the State of Utah and has been unable to find work.
Bipolar Disorder & Marijuana: How Cannabis Use Increases Cognitive Skills
Individuals with advanced neurocogitive skills compared to bipolar patients with no history of use, according to research published online in the journal Psychiatry Research.
Researchers from Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, NY, along with colleagues at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City compared the performance of 50 bipolar subjects with a history of marijuana use to 150 bipolar patients with no history of use with a series of standardized cognitive tests.
Patient groups were similar in regards to age, racial background, and highest education levels achieved. Bipolar patients with a history of marijuana use had similar age at onset as did study participants who had not smoked marijuana.
During the study, researchers discovered that participants with a history of smoking marijuana exhibited better neurocognitive performance than that of non-users, but there was no major difference on estimates of premorbid IQ.
“Results from our analysis suggest that subjects with bipolar disorder and history of (marijuana use) demonstrate significantly better neurocognitive performance, particularly on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory.”
“These findings are consistent with a previous study that demonstrated that bipolar subjects with history of cannabis use had superior verbal fluency performance as compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use. Similar results have also been found in schizophrenia in several studies,” said the authors.
“These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders. However, it is also possible that these findings may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs,” they said.
About the author and her other writings: Traci Pedersen
Source: Psychiatry Research
Perimenopause Part 2: How Cannabis Can Help with Hormone Induced Mood Swings
It is hard to imagine women in generations past having as many hormonal complications in the years leading up to menopause as today’s women do. Toxins in the air, food and water create xenoestrogens in the body. These aggressive foreign chemicals mask as natural estrogens and take their toll on women who are already experiencing the natural hormonal fluctuations of midlife to begin with.
In the last article, we presented a rather daunting list of the complications that can arise in women during perimenopause. Many of these things could be lessened, however, with the right formula of healthy lifestyle habits (such as getting plenty of rest and reducing stress), detoxing, healthy eating and targeted supplements.
And this is exactly where medical cannabis use can come in. Cannabis use can rebalance the vital Endo-Cannabinoid (ES) system during perimenopause, which in turn can assist in hormonal balancing.
Cannabis for Hormonal Mood Swings
The years directly before menopause are sometimes called the “window of vulnerability” for the development of a variety of psychological conditions, including depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Estrogen levels may fluctuate greatly during perimenopause while xenoestrogens continue to build up and estrogen methylation and metabolism issues arise. All this can lead to fibroid tumors, painful ovulation, breast cancer and severe mood swings.
Issues with estrogen also affects other hormones that are part of the endocrine system, such as testosterone and progesterone. All of these substances play a vital role when it comes to cognitive function and emotional balance. In addition to the specific physiological changes that middle-aged women go through, midlife can be a very stressful period in general, no matter what your gender. Aging parents, children leaving home, changes in work and career and the ending of relationships are just a few of the emotionally-charged situations that can come up during the “middle years.”
Given all these factors, is it no wonder that a study based out of Europe which questioned over 514 million people in over 30 countries found that depression in middle-aged women had double over the last 40 years?
In addition to cultivating self-awareness through counseling and modalities like EFT/Tapping(as well as the possible use of bioidentical hormones to increase progesterone levels naturally), low-level cannabis use can play a role in not only regulating a woman’s brain chemistry but also in possibly displacing harmful xenoestrogens.
The EC System and Estrogen
One reason cannabis benefits the brain is because of the neuro-protective role cannabinoids play in the body. In part because of the presence of the phytoestrogen apigenin, cannabis helps to mediate the growth of new brain cells and the connections that are formed between them. In a study using mice conducted by Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the cannabinoid 2-AG was believed to reduce the level of toxic molecules, decrease the amounts of inflammation-producing free radicals and increase the blood supply to the brain in traumatic brain injury.
Some research, such as that of a 2011 study conducted by the University of Newcastle in England, makes the direct correlation between EC System dysfunction and mood-related conditions as well as how cannabis can help.
“Anandamide, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) variously combine antidepressant, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, analgesic, anticonvulsant actions, suggesting a therapeutic potential in mood and related disorders,” the researchers said.
Interestingly, researchers at Newcastle noted that “abnormalities in cannabinoid-1 receptors (CNR1)” were found in psychiatric imbalances (when studied post-mortem). CNR1 is a gene that “codes” for cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptors. Recalling from the last article, CB1 is also intricately connected to the functioning of the endocrine system since there are active cannabinoid receptors located within and near the hypothalamus. Research also indicates the presence of CB1 receptors within the gonads (ovaries and testes) of both men and women.
And this is where cannabis may be able to help perimenopausal women in another way. It was mentioned that apigenin, found in cannabis as well as beans and seeds like flax, is a “phytoestrogen.” That means that apigenin likes to bind with estrogen receptors in the body, often taking up the space that xenoestrogens would fill. In studies dating as far back as the 1980’s, there has been evidence that apigenin in cannabidiol has a high propensity for estrogen-receptor binding. One studyfrom 1983 stated that “estrogen receptor binding activity was observed in crude marijuana extract, marijuana smoke condensate and several known components of cannabis,” but not in straight extract.
Cannabis and Serotonin Levels
The body will respond to a perceived “threat” whether it is real or imagined. When it does, it creates a series of responses, the last of which is the adrenal release of cortisol, often called the “stress” hormone because it is activated during “fight or flight.” Several things happen when cortisol is let loose in body, the most significantly being that the body’s resources are diverted from digestion and immune function to the preparation of the body to either “run,” fight” or “go with the status quo.” Especially in conditions of chronic stress, such as depression or PTSD, levels of cortisol remain so high in the bloodstream that levels of serotonin and dopamine (those hormones associated with pleasure and relaxation) remain permanently low or nonexistent.
Cortisol levels tend to rise during the later stages of perimenopause and into menopause, although researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly why. The consequences of this rise are noticeable, however: insomnia, weight gain, a compromised immune system and a greater chance for major anxiety/depression disorder. Some modalities and supplements, such as DHEA and massage, have demonstrated a clear ability to balance cortisol and serotonin. Early research also shows that very low doses of cannabis may also help regulate and stabilize serotonin levels, again through assisting in the proper functioning of endocannabinoids between neurological pathways. Anecdotal evidence from PTSD sufferers supports this hypothesis as well.
As is the case with every healing modality, the dosage and modality of cannabis use will vary for each woman. Cannabis smoke or vape (not extract) appear to be the best mode of administration for cannabis’ phytoestrogenic effect, while brain hormone-balancing effects seem to be effective in any form, but only with low doses. Caution should be taken when you are trying cannabis for mood-balancing for the first time in order to determine how it affects you. In addition, extra precautions need to be taken for women who have hypothyroidism. While there has been no evidence to suggest that cannabis use affects the thyroid with repeated use over time, other studies point to a slowing down of thyroid function with cannabis use in general.
The fundamental principle of natural medicine relies on the fact that the body is always seeking balance. Because cannabis aids in the healthy functioning of the endocannabinoid system (whose sole purpose is to create balance in the body!), it can be a great adjunct therapy for most perimenopausal women seeking relief. The best course of action is to consider cannabis within the larger framework of a healthy lifestyle overall. Learn all you can and then give a particular marijuana modality a try, being aware every step of the way of what feels right for you.
To learn more about medical cannabis, peri-menopause and other conditions, please join us for two days of education on May 21st and 22nd at Dominican University of California, located in the San Francisco bay
A Patients Guide for using Medical Marijuana for Anxiety, Sleep, Depression and Mood Disorders
One of the most well-known effects of cannabis is a feeling of overall well-being or happiness. Medical professionals and researchers refer to this effect as mood elevation, and know that it is caused by cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds in cannabis similar to those that the human body produces on its own when healthy. With certain conditions, such as anxiety, sleep, and mood disorders, the body may not produce these needed soothing agents. Medical marijuana can help replace these natural cannabinoids to relieve many of the symptoms common with depression, anxiety, sleep and mood disorders.
How Medical Marijuana Works for Anxiety, Sleep, Depression and Mood Disorders
It might seem strange that cannabis works across different anxiety, sleep, and mood disorders, since these conditions have many separate causes and symptoms that are not always related. One reason cannabis is effective is because it has 61 unique cannabinoids, each of which falls into one of eleven different groups that have different effects when used to treat conditions. This is why patients will see different strains of medical marijuana bred to have higher levels of specific cannabinoids. This specialization is based on years of deep scientific research.
- Therapies for major depression currently available have limited effectiveness, but research on cannabinoids shows that these compounds increase serotonin, an important mood controller, and even increases the generation of new brain cells (Endocannabinoids in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: Evidence from Animal Models, Rodriguez Bambico, F. et al.)
- Anxiety is a symptom of many psychiatric conditions, and recent research shows that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in modulating the feelings of fear that characterize anxiety. In particular, the CB1 receptor plays an important part, and can be activated to relieve feelings of anxiety with cannabinoids, either naturally produced or introduced into the body (such as with medical marijuana) (Modulation of Fear and Anxiety by the Endogenous Cannabinoid system, Chhatwal, J.P., and Ressler, K.J.)
- THC appears to be the primary cannabinoid contributing to feelings of sleepiness, while the cannabinoid CBD can cause feelings of wakefulness, suggesting that high-THC low-CBD strains of medical marijuana are best to overcome insomnia and sleeplessness (Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults, Nicholson, A.N., et al.)
- Adult medical cannabis users report more feelings of depression, possibly brought on by the conditions contributing to their use of medical cannabis, but also report relief from symptoms of depression and more positive moods through using medical cannabis (Decreased depression in marijuana users, Denson, T.F., and Earleywine, M.)
Since the cannabinoids that relieve symptoms of anxiety, sleep, and mood disorders are present in virtually any form of medical marijuana, patients can find relief from their symptoms in a variety of ways, including:
- Inhaled medical marijuana, whether through commonly used marijuana cigarettes or specialized devices such as pipes and vaporizers
- In recipes as a food item or as an addition to drinks; this method works best in edibles that have a higher oil content, since cannabinoids are oil soluble
Anxiety, sleep, and mood disorders can be very disruptive to daily life, but so can many of the traditional treatments available for these conditions. Those suffering from these upsetting symptoms might be able to supplement treatment for their conditions with medical cannabis, and should discuss this option with a qualified medical marijuana doctor.
United Patients Group is dedicated to making sure patients can have access to medicine that helps reduce their pain and symptoms, listing dispensaries and medical marijuana resources to ease that process. Feel free to contact us with any questions or to share your story of how medical marijuana has helped you.
Mood Disorders Information: Mood Disorders and Medical Marijuana Treatments
Most people feel sad or irritable from time to time. They may say they’re in a bad mood. A mood disorder is different. It affects a person’s everyday emotional state. Nearly one in ten people aged 18 and older have mood disorders. These include depression and bipolar disorder(also called manic depression).
Recent years have brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding how medical marijuana or cannabis can be beneficial for treating mood disorders.
Mood disorders can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. Treatments include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. With treatment, most people with mood disorders can lead productive lives.
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