Evidence based

CBD and Bipolar Disorder: Current Research & Understanding

Bipolar disorder involves severe fluctuations in mood. CBD provides benefits for a range of mood disorders, including bipolar disorder. Here’s how it works.

Article By
Justin Cooke , posted 2 months ago

Bipolar disorder affects between 0.4% and 1.6% of the world’s population, according to recent reports. This means roughly 70 million people around the planet suffer from bipolar disorder to some degree.

There are treatment options available — however, they often come with a myriad of negative side-effects, and often don’t work at all.

This prompted researchers to explore new treatment options. One of the compounds gaining a lot of attention as a potential new treatment for bipolar disorder is cannabidiol — one of the primary phytochemicals in the cannabis plant.

Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s commonly known, has been shown to protect the brain from damage and support healthy neurotransmitter function. Through these effects, it’s believed to reduce the severity of the bipolar disorder and help those affected to maintain more stable moods throughout the day.

Here, we’ll explore the role CBD plays in maintaining mood, how to use CBD for bipolar disorder, and when to avoid it.

Let’s get started.

  • Table of Contents

Summary: Using CBD for Bipolar Disorder

Using CBD for bipolar disorder isn’t a new concept, and there’s currently one phase II clinical trial underway comparing the long-term effects of CBD with the effects of a placebo in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In order to get to this stage of research, CBD needed to pass similar tests with flying colors. If it failed any of the studies prior to this phase II clinical trial, it wouldn’t have been approved for use in the study.

Previous studies found that CBD offers a clear benefit to mood disorders with little to no side-effects.

Although there are clear benefits to using CBD with bipolar disorder, there are some important cautions to be aware of before deciding if it’s right for you or not.

Caution #1: The Type of CBD Product You Use Matters

Some cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, including THC, can actually make bipolar disorder significantly worse. Therefore, it’s critical that the CBD product you purchase contains low levels of THC to avoid this.

For bipolar disorder, it’s recommended that only a high-grade, full-spectrum extract with third-party lab testing to confirm the cannabinoid profiles of the product is used.

The other option is to use a CBD isolate — which contains nothing but active CBD.

Caution #2. Other Medications Need to Be Considered

Bipolar disorder is usually treated with powerful antipsychotic drugs. These medications alter neurotransmitters in the brain. Users need to be cautious when taking other supplements, including herbs and nutritional supplements such as CBD oil because it can be difficult to predict how they interact with prescription medications.

Always consult your doctor before trying CBD for bipolar symptoms to check for drug-herb interactions.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels.

The root of the condition is the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, and others all fluctuate and interact throughout the day to regulate our moods.

Everybody’s mood fluctuates to some extent — we have periods of feeling joy and periods of discomfort and irritability. This is normal — however, in bipolar patients, these fluctuations are far more severe, often making it difficult to perform daily activities such as complete work or socially interact.

The specific neurotransmitters responsible for bipolar symptoms can vary, and in many cases, the exact cause is never truly identified.

This makes the condition hard to treat, and much of the treatment in a hospital is done through trial and error — patients try a drug and wait to see if it produces results. If not, they try the next one in line until they find something that relieves their symptoms.

Bipolar disorder causes episodes of extreme emotion that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks at a time. Episodes can range from mild to extreme.

There are three primary types of episodes experienced by those with bipolar disorder.

1. Manic Episodes

The brain is in a state of hyperactivation, which can make people seem intense or overly happy. During manic episodes, those affected tend to have a lot of energy. They can seem highly motivated and euphoric and tend to develop side-effects such as anxiety and insomnia.

Manic episodes can become dangerous as they can make people reckless and may bring negative side-effects such as paranoia, psychosis, or delusions.

2. Hypomanic Episodes

A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode — but tends to be less extreme. It’s often considered a halfway point between mania and depression.

People experiencing hypomania are often able to continue their normal responsibilities, but find it more challenging to avoid distraction or bursts of anxiety.

3. Major Depressive Episodes

Major depressive episodes are the opposite of manic episodes. It causes those affected to have low motivation. They may feel tired and sluggish and can feel severely depressed. They often go through periods of social isolation, and some experience thoughts of suicide or death.

The Causes of Bipolar Disorder

There’s no single cause of bipolar disorder. It’s a combination of many factors ranging from genetic inheritance to environmental and social influences.

Some of the Known Causes of Bipolar Disorder Include:

  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Excessive mental stress
  • Genetic predisposition

Are There any Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder?

Treating bipolar disorder is difficult because the cause is hard to determine.

The best treatment for the condition comes in the form of psychiatric therapy to determine potential triggers and underlying causes such as a history of abuse or mental stresses.

Other causes, such as hormone imbalances, should also be tested for and treated as necessary.

In terms of symptomatic support, there are a few pharmaceutical medications used for treating bipolar disorder.

Medications Used to Control Bipolar Symptoms

  • Mood stabilizers (lithium, valproic acid, carbamazepine)
  • Antipsychotics (Abilify, Zyprexa, Latuda)
  • Antidepressants (Sertraline)
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotics (Symbyax)
  • Anticonvulsants (Depakote, Tegretol)

Other Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

  • Counseling
  • Hospitalization during extreme episodes of mania or depression
  • Nutritional support
  • CBD supplementation
  • Herbal medicine
  • Removal of mental stresses
  • Sensory deprivation
  • Support groups

Using CBD for Bipolar Disorder Safely

CBD alleviates many of the common symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, there are also reports of people who had their symptoms magnify due to cannabis use. This is mainly due to the THC content in marijuana, which is neuro-stimulating and can aggravate symptoms.

For this reason, it’s not safe for people with bipolar disorder to consume marijuana that has a high THC content.

To use this supplement safely, it’s important to find CBD oils, capsules, or edibles confirmed to be low in THC and high in therapeutic CBD.

It’s also crucial that you speak with your doctor before taking CBD for bipolar disorder to make sure the compound won’t interact negatively with the medications you’re taking.

Guide to Using CBD for Bipolar Disorder

Once your doctor has approved you to start taking CBD to alleviate symptoms of bipolar disorder, you need to find the right product to use and determine the best dose.

There are many different ways you can take CBD. Here, we’ll discuss the most common options in detail and how they can be used alongside a bipolar diagnosis.

1. CBD Oils and Tinctures

CBD oils and tinctures are the most common forms of CBD supplementation because they simplify dosing.

They’re made by mixing a CBD extract with oil or alcohol. They’re easier to consume because pure CBD or cannabis resin comes as tiny crystals or a sticky, oily, resin — both of which make it difficult to measure the dose accurately.

As an oil, the dose is measured by counting the number of drops using the provided dropper.

CBD oils and tinctures come in a variety of potencies. It’s recommended that you choose a potency that best matches the dose you aim to take. Use our dosage chart in the next section to find your approximate dosage.

2. CBD Capsules

CBD capsules provide another popular method of consuming CBD. They take away a lot of the guesswork when it comes to dosing and make it easy to take your CBD on the go.

CBD capsules also come in both low-potency and high-potency options.

3. CBD Edibles

Edibles are a great option for people who don’t like the taste of the oils or tinctures and want to avoid swallowing capsules.

The only downside to edibles is that the amount of CBD they contain is often unreliable, making dosing inconsistent.

For a condition such as bipolar disorder, it’s important to be consistent with your CBD use — something that edibles aren’t always able to provide.

4. CBD E-Liquids and Vape Oils

Vaping CBD provides the most efficient form of dosing because bioavailability through the lungs is much higher than it is through the digestive tract.

Vaping is a good option for people with bipolar disorder because it offers fast relief from symptoms. It’s also one of the most portable methods of taking CBD.

How Much CBD Should I Take?

Deciding on the right dose of CBD can take some trial and error. Everybody responds to this compound differently, so a little bit of self-testing is needed to find the right dose. This is also the case with most of the pharmaceutical bipolar medications used.

It’s best to start with a low dosage and build up gradually over time until you find relief from your symptoms.

In most cases, people with bipolar disorder won’t start to experience benefits until they reach the medium- or high-strength doses. Some people even require doses outside the listed range. The only way to find out your dose is to test it.

General Dosage Ranges for Psychological Disorders

Low-Strength CBDMedium-Strength CBDHigh-Strength CBD
• Mild depression or anxiety    
• Periods of higher-than-average stress  
• Daily maintenance dose for asymptomatic bipolar disorder
• Moderate bipolar symptoms    
• High stress  
• Insomnia  
• Depression
• Severe bipolar symptoms    
• Anxiety  
• Severe insomnia

Most bipolar patients take a medium- or high-strength dose of CBD — however, this can vary from one person to the next.

The best way to calculate the dose according to strength is to use the formulas below.

Calculating CBD Dosage Strengths by Weight

Unit of MeasureLow StrengthMedium StrengthHigh Strength
Imperial (pounds)1 mg for every 10 lbs3 mg for every 10 lbs6 mg for every 10 lbs
Metric (kilograms)1 mg for every 4.5 kg3 mg for every 4.5 kg6 mg for every 4.5 kg

To make this more simple, we’ve provided a chart using the calculations above.

Daily Doses of CBD by Weight and Strength (in mg)

Weight (lbs)Low StrengthMedium StrengthHigh Strength

100 lbs

10 mg

30 mg

60 mg

125 lbs

13 mg

38 mg

75 mg

150 lbs

15 mg

45 mg

90 mg

175 lbs

17 mg

52 mg

105 mg

200 lbs

20 mg

60 mg

120 mg

225 lbs

22 mg

67 mg

135 mg

250 lbs

25 mg

75 mg

150 mg

Potential Side-Effects of CBD

Although CBD is proven to be highly safe in terms of toxicity, it’s important to know about the potential side-effects. Everybody is different, and what works for one person doesn’t always work the same way for another.

Some of the most common side-effects of CBD:

  • Appetite suppression
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lower heart rate
  • Sedation

Final Verdict: Using CBD for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can severely interrupt normal daily activities and is difficult to treat effectively.

Many people are now turning to CBD as a means of alleviating their symptoms. It works in a few different ways related to hormones, neurotransmitters and central nervous system homeostasis (balance). It also helps to alleviate common side-effects such as muscle tension, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

The most important thing to remember when taking CBD supplements for bipolar disorder is to first consult with your doctor(s) and avoid any supplement or cannabis containing high amounts of THC. This is very important, as THC can make symptoms of bipolar disorder far worse.

We’ve found that most people find the relief they’re looking for with either a medium- or high-strength CBD supplement.


References

  1. Zhornitsky, S., & Potvin, S. (2012). Cannabidiol in humans—the quest for therapeutic targets. Pharmaceuticals, 5(5), 529-552.
  2. Ashton, C. H., Moore, P. B., Gallagher, P., & Young, A. H. (2005). Cannabinoids in bipolar affective disorder: a review and discussion of their therapeutic potential. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 19(3), 293-300.
  3. Mechoulam, R., Peters, M., Murillo‐Rodriguez, E., & Hanuš, L. O. (2007). Cannabidiol–recent advances. Chemistry & biodiversity, 4(8), 1678-1692.
  4. Zuardi, A. W., Crippa, J. A. D. S., Dursun, S. M., Morais, S. L., Vilela, J. A. A., Sanches, R. F., & Hallak, J. E. C. (2010). Cannabidiol was ineffective for manic episode of bipolar affective disorder. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 24(1), 135-137.

Conditions that May Respond to Cannabidiol