It’s a fair question: does weed make bipolar worse? New findings by a team of British researchers point toward a substantial worsening of existing bipolar disorder symptoms in people who use various forms of the addictive, plant-based drug marijuana/cannabis. People who consume marijuana or other forms of cannabis may have increased risks of developing serious psychiatric problems, especially when they have genetic or environmental susceptibilities to such problems. In a recent study, researchers sought to determine how marijuana/cannabis use impacts the mental health of people affected by either of two mood disorders known as bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder. These researchers connected cannabis use to a worsening of both main aspects of bipolar illness.
Bipolar illnesses get their name because affected individuals periodically swing between two poles of unusually strong and damaging emotion: mania (a state characterized by irritability and heightened energy levels) and depression. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially recognizes several forms of these illnesses, including bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder. People with bipolar I disorder have a severe type of bipolar illness that includes episodes of fully developed mania and episodes of depression symptoms extreme enough to merit a diagnosis of major depression (the most severe form of depressive illness).
APA guidelines mandate that the periods of extreme mania associated with the disorder must last for a week or longer; periods of bipolar I disorder-related depression must last for two weeks or longer. Some people with the disorder experience mixed periods of mania and depression, or cycle through these damaging mental states unusually quickly.
People with bipolar II disorder also experience periods of mania and depression. However, their manic episodes don’t reach the severity of the episodes found in people with bipolar I disorder. In addition, people with bipolar II disorder don’t experience mixed episodes of mania and depression. The separate episodes of depression associated with this form of bipolar illness are just as severe as the depression associated with bipolar I disorder.
Marijuana/Cannabis and Mental Health
Apart from characteristic symptoms of short-term mind alteration, marijuana/cannabis use can trigger lasting changes in brain function when consumed at an early age or consumed habitually over time. These changes can affect various aspects of brain development and functioning, leading to potential consequences that should be carefully considered.
One significant concern is the potential for altered brain development, which may manifest as memory impairment and diminished intellectual capacity. Research suggests that exposure to marijuana/cannabis during critical periods of brain development can disrupt normal cognitive processes and hinder optimal intellectual growth.
Moreover, there is evidence that marijuana/cannabis use, especially in high-potency forms, may increase the risk of experiencing bouts of psychosis. These bouts, characterized by delusions and/or hallucinations, can closely resemble symptoms of schizophrenic mental illness. It is important to note that susceptibility to such episodes may vary among individuals.
Additionally, marijuana/cannabis consumption has been linked to the onset of schizophrenia in susceptible individuals. While the mechanisms behind this association are not yet fully understood, it highlights the potential risks for individuals with a predisposition to this mental disorder.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that these potential consequences of marijuana/cannabis use are not universal and may vary based on individual factors such as genetic predisposition, frequency of use, and dosage. However, understanding these risks can help inform individuals and encourage responsible decision-making regarding marijuana/cannabis consumption.
Marijuana/Cannabis and Bipolar Illness
In a study published in PLOS One, researchers from Lancaster University and the University of Manchester examined the impact of marijuana/cannabis use on bipolar disorder. The small-scale study involved 24 participants with bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder. Fifteen participants met the criteria for cannabis use disorder.
After conducting tests over six days, the researchers found that marijuana/cannabis use increased mania and depression symptoms in both bipolar I and bipolar II disorder. The study also revealed that individuals with bipolar disorder were more likely to use marijuana/cannabis when in a relatively good mood. However, it remains unclear whether individuals in heightened manic or depressive states use the drug for self-medication.
Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The Ranch TN May Be the Answer
If you or a loved one struggles with bipolar disorder and marijuana/cannabis use, it’s important to seek professional help. Dual diagnosis treatment at The Ranch TN can provide comprehensive care for both conditions simultaneously. By addressing the underlying triggers and factors contributing to both disorders, individuals can receive personalized treatment plans tailored to their unique needs. With a range of therapy options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), individual counseling, and group therapy sessions, individuals can gain critical skills and strategies needed to manage their mental health long-term.