Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes shifts in energy levels, mood, and focus. People with bipolar disorder may experience periods of high energy, also known as manic episodes, often followed by depressive episodes.
It can be difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder because not everyone with a mental health condition will experience the same pattern of behaviors or mood shifts. And while most pop culture portrayals of bipolar disorder involve extreme mood swings, not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences dramatic shifts in mood.
While standard treatment of bipolar disorder often involves prescription medication, some people are curious whether cannabidiol (CBD) may be another option.
This article looks at whether CBD can help with bipolar disorder and whether it’s safe for people with the mental health condition to use CBD.
CBD is a substance called a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are found in cannabis plants. Other cannabinoids include cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD produces mild effects and no obvious “high.”
There are three types of CBD:
- Isolate: This pure form of CBD contains no additional compounds from the cannabis plant.
- Broad-spectrum: This form of CBD contains some cannabis plant compounds other than CBD, including terpenes and other cannabinoids, but no THC.
- Full-spectrum: This form of CBD contains the full spectrum of substances from the cannabis plant. It also has a small amount of THC.
CBD comes in different forms, including:
A note on THC content
Even CBD isolate products have the capacity to contain trace amounts of THC. If you want to avoid THC altogether or are drug tested, you may want to avoid CBD products.
There’s limited information on the effects of CBD in people with bipolar disorder. But
Similarly, other research reviews from
The human body is equipped with an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps to keep systems running smoothly. The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids, enzymes, and receptors.
Your body naturally produces endocannabinoids. The two that experts know of are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). These bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors in your body and trigger specific effects like pain relief. Once endocannabinoids have completed their job, enzymes break them down.
Experts still aren’t clear on how the ECS works, but research suggests it may be involved in:
- chronic pain
- immune system responses
- appetite and digestion
- learning and memory
Since CBD is a cannabinoid, it can bind to your body’s endocannabinoid receptors. But experts don’t know how the ECS and CBD interact. Some believe that CBD stops enzymes from breaking down endocannabinoids, but that’s just one theory.
What researchers are pretty sure of is that CBD and THC work better together than alone. This happens due to the entourage effect. That’s why full-spectrum CBD may have more pronounced effects than other forms of CBD.
CBD is considered safe to use, according to the
However, over-the-counter CBD products aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And while the FDA does send warning letters to companies making false health claims about CBD, they don’t regulate what actually goes into each CBD product. That means that quality can vary widely.
CBD is less likely to cause side effects than THC. Still, it’s possible to experience mild side effects like:
- weight changes
- appetite changes
If you do decide to try CBD, research the brand that you’re interested in. Not all brands are high-quality, and some may not actually contain what they say they do.
The best way to be sure of what you’re ingesting is to review the certificate of analysis (COA) for a product before you buy it. The COA should come from a reputable third-party lab, and it should tell you exactly what testing your product has undergone. This includes testing for levels of:
- CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids
- contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and molds
- residual solvents
You might also want to check the brand’s reputation, searching for any
Finally, peruse the brand’s website to see how transparent they are about their manufacturing process and ingredient sourcing.
Typically, doctors treat bipolar disorder using a combination of the following:
- mood stabilizers
- anti-anxiety medications
- electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy
These treatments are backed by more research than CBD is.
Finding the right treatment for any mental health condition can be challenging because symptoms often differ significantly from person to person.
Anecdotally, some people say that taking CBD helps with their anxiety and depression. But it’s important to remember that CBD is not a replacement for traditional mental health therapies.
If you have a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, talk with a mental health professional about available treatment options. And if you’re already taking medication for bipolar disorder, continue taking it and talk to your doctor before taking CBD. Some medications, including lithium, may interact with CBD.
Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.