According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that produces abnormal shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to perform daily tasks. The basic types of bipolar disorder are characterized by changes in mood that range from manic episodes- periods of extreme euphoria and energized behavior to depressive episodes- feeling “down” and hopeless. Mood episodes such as periods of unusually intense emotions, disruption in sleep patterns and daily activity, and unusual behaviors also describes bipolar disorder. This disorder is difficult to diagnose and is often poorly controlled by prescribed drugs. In the medical marijuana world, cannabidiol (CBD) has been demonstrated to have the potential to manage bipolar disorder.
The Endocannabinoid system, the Brain and Bipolar Disorder
Research has suggested that a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system (ECS) may play a part in mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. The ECS plays a vital role in the physiological processes in the central nervous system and in the periphery, where it acts as neuromodulator at inhibitory and excitatory synapses in brain regions involved in emotional or non-emotional behavior. The implication is that a lack of proper functioning of the ECS is associated with bipolar disorder or some aspects of psychological profile.
Furthermore, studies point to interactions between the endocannabinoids and the neurotransmitters as possible agents of emotional and mood changes. It is believed that deficits in dopamine levels in the brain contribute to mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. Abnormal dopamine signaling affects issues with decision making that negatively impacts the lives of those suffering from bipolar disorder. Nerve pathways in different areas of the brain that regulate pleasure and emotional reward are controlled by dopamine levels, and disruption of normal functioning of brain circuits can affect mental health and lead to disruptive thought patterns and behaviors.
Still, modulation of the ECS also provides a pathway to potentially treat bipolar disorder by using exogenous cannabinoids such as cannabidiol by exerting antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, and anxiolytic effects. Research backs the antipsychotic mechanism action of cannabidiol (CBD) that may indirectly influence endogenous anandamide by increasing levels of anandamide can attenuate mood disturbances.
Treating Bipolar with CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) could work to elevate levels of anandamide, which in turn, could produce a positive effect on both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors by counteracting the disruption in mood. CBD is capable of preventing glutamate toxicity (excitatory neurotransmitter damage) and provides anti-convulsant and mood-stabilizing benefits. These potential benefits have been demonstrated to be comparable those that results from the administration of conventional therapeutic drugs used to treat bipolar disorder such as lithium. Based on the results of human clinical trials, CBD significantly reduced symptoms and normalized motor functions in psychiatric patients, which is an indication that these benefits may be effective in treating manic episodes in bipolar disorder patients.
CBD and Bipolar Disorder-Related Anxiety
Further studies suggests that CBD possesses anti-convulsive, neuroprotective, and anti-stress benefits. Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry presented the findings of an animal study in which they suggest that CBD has been shown to offer great psychiatric potential as both an antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like compound. In the study, mice were administered CBD as an anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like compound, and the results showed lower levels of anxiety and depression in the mice that were given CBD than mice that did not receive CBD.
In another experimental animal model, also called olfactory bulbectomy mouse model, of depression (OBX) investigated the anti-depressive action of CBD. The results suggest that cannabidiol exerted rapid and sustained antidepressant action in the depressed animals by significantly enhancing serotonin and glutamate levels in an acute and chronic manner. Animal studies about CBD and bipolar disorder may not get many excited, but the results encourage and warrant human replication and investigation.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unclear, which makes it difficult to establish the ideal treatment plan. Cannabidiol (CBD) may prove to be a viable alternative for treating bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder requires proper diagnosis if the correct course of treatment is to be administered. CBD can treat bipolar disorder by exerting anti-convulsive, neuroprotective, and anti-stress benefits. While animal studies are a long way from developing a cure, they are a source of valuable information. Current clinical evidence warrants further investigation to build on the knowledge that already exists, and to replicate human studies that can offer more concrete results.