Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.

People with bipolar disorder have periods or episodes of:

  • depression – feeling very low and lethargic
  • mania – feeling very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania)

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you’re experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a “normal” mood very often.

Depression

You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before having a future manic episode (sometimes years later), after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.

If you’re feeling suicidal or having severe depressive symptoms, contact your GP, care co-ordinator or local mental health emergency services as soon as possible.

If you want to talk to someone confidentially, call the Samaritans, free of charge, on 116 123. You can talk to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, visit the Samaritans website or email jo@samaritans.org.

Mania

During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy and have lots of energy, ambitious plans and ideas. You may spend large amounts of money on things you can’t afford and wouldn’t normally want.

Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase.

You may feel very creative and view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive experience. However, you may also experience symptoms of psychosis, where you see or hear things that aren’t there or become convinced of things that aren’t true.

Medical Marijuana Efficiency

A study published in 1998 by Harvard professors documented five cases in which patients identified significant relief from their bipolar-related symptoms through the use of medical marijuana. Among these patients, a 47 year old woman, found cannabis to be more effective than other proscribed drugs in controlling her manic episodes. In another case, the husband of a bipolar sufferer told of numerous ways that cannabis seemed to help his wife in dealing with the disorder.

These cases were also cited alongside others in a review study conducted by a team of British researchers. The review, published in 2005 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, presented evidence from a 1996 report that described five cases in which marijuana seemed to have a direct effect in countering depression. The researchers also cited 2 surveys conducted in 2003 which found that 15-27% of medical marijuana patients in California were prescribed the drug for various mood disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and ADHD.

CBD has also shown to have strong anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety affects and clinical tests have shown that cannabis users smoking lower cannabidiol strains are at a much higher risk of memory impairment. GW Pharmaceuticals are currently developing a high CBD rich strain to treat psychosis.

Individuals with advanced neurocognitive skills compared to bipolar patients with no history of use, according to research published online in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Researchers from Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, NY, along with colleagues at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City compared the performance of 50 bipolar subjects with a history of marijuana use to 150 bipolar patients with no history of use with a series of standardized cognitive tests.

Patient groups were similar in regards to age, racial background, and highest education levels achieved. Bipolar patients with a history of marijuana use had similar age at onset as did study participants who had not smoked marijuana.

During the study, researchers discovered that participants with a history of smoking marijuana exhibited better neurocognitive performance than that of non-users, but there was no major difference on estimates of premorbid IQ.

“Results from our analysis suggest that subjects with bipolar disorder and history of (marijuana use) demonstrate significantly better neurocognitive performance, particularly on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory.”

“These findings are consistent with a previous study that demonstrated that bipolar subjects with history of cannabis use had superior verbal fluency performance as compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use. Similar results have also been found in schizophrenia in several studies,” said the authors.

“These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders. However, it is also possible that these findings may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs,” they said.