Can Cannabis Help Treat Bipolar Disorder? 

Cannabis could have “uniquely beneficial effects” for patients suffering from bipolar disorder, a new study has suggested.

Researchers found a link between chronic cannabis consumption and improved cognitive function in patients with bipolar disorder. 

Moreover, increased motivation was also found among cannabis-consuming patients, along with a reduction in risky decision-making.  

The research contributes to the growing evidence that cannabis may offer a new approach for treating many mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder.  

The study

The study, which was presented at the Society For Neuroscience annual meeting, analysed a group of participants with and without a bipolar diagnosis, as well as either being cannabis users or non-users.

Participants were given a number of tests to measure risky decision-making, motivation, reward learning and sustained attention.

It was discovered that chronic cannabis use was associated with a modest improvement in some cognitive functions.

Cannabis use was also associated with a normalisation of risky decision making and effortful motivation in people with BD, but not healthy participants.

“Thus, chronic cannabis use may have uniquely beneficial effects in people with BD,” the study concludes.

Increased dopaminergic activity

Authors of the study write: “Chronic cannabis use may have uniquely beneficial effects in people with BD.

“Previous studies suggest that some people with BD have increased dopaminergic activity due to a reduced dopamine transporter expression.

“Chronic cannabis use has been shown to reduce dopamine release, thus chronic cannabis use may result in a return to dopamine homeostasis in people with BD and consequently normalising their deficits in goal-directed behaviours.”

Millions suffering

Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, are among the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses worldwide. 

Recent research has found that there are around 1.3 million people suffering from bipolar in the UK. And more shockingly, 5% of the world’s population could be on the bipolar spectrum. 

Current treatments for mood disorders frequently involve benzodiazepines and serotonin modulators, which can often cause unwanted side effects or have no impact on patients whatsoever.  

So this new study explored the potential effects cannabis has on cognitive functions and goal-directed behaviours among bipolar disorder patients, in the hope of uncovering a more effective treatment. 

Cannabis and psilocybin for mood disorders? 

Both cannabis and psilocybin (from ‘magic’ mushrooms) are increasing in popularity among researchers for the treatment of mental health illnesses and mood disorders.  

They have warranted further investigations as many believe the antidepressant and anxiolytic properties could prove to be incredibly effective. 

Lisa Monteggia, a professor of pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, commented on the the recent findings:  

“As a field, we are thinking about psilocybin and cannabis in new ways and not only evaluating them for their potential therapeutic benefit but probing how they exert their effects in the brain.

“The research presented today is contributing to the growing evidence that these compounds may offer new avenues for symptom relief in many mental health conditions.” 

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