Jan. 3, 2013 12:40
Bipolar (also known as manic-depressive) disorder is a psychological condition that affects 4 percent of the population in America at one point in their lives. A person with bipolar disorder will experience manic states, where they are euphoric, impulsive, excitable and erratic, followed by depressive states, where they are sad, negative, irritable and lethargic.
Because of these emotional rollercoaster rides that can vary in frequency, duration and intensity, people with bipolar disorder can have many difficulties maintaining jobs and healthy relationships throughout their lives. Proper psychological care—and sometimes pharmaceutical medication—can help sufferers cope with the disease and have normal lives.
But evidence now suggests that cannabis may offer help.
In a recent collaborative study—“Cognitive and clinical outcomes associated with cannabis use in patients with bipolar disorder”—performed by scientists at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Long Island, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York researchers determined that the plant could help improve the lives of those grappling with the disorder. The study was recently published in Psychiatry Research
Dr. Raphael Braga, of Zucker Hillside, led a group of researchers that performed a series of tests on 200 patients suffering from bipolar disorder. Out of these 200, 50 were heavy users of cannabis. The purpose of the study was to compare the results of all the patients’ clinical, neurocognitive tests against each other. The cannabis users’ results were also compared to the other 150 patients. The results? Regardless of age or gender, patients who used cannabis, when tested for cognitive functioning including attention, processing speed and working memory, showed greater improvement and performed better during the testing than the bipolar patients who did not use the plant.
“These analyses indicate an interesting pattern suggesting superior neurocognitive performance among bipolar patients with cannabis use disorder when compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use,” Braga says. “Moreover, this cognitive advantage is noted in spite of evidence of a more severe clinical course.”
Interestingly enough, back in 2010, researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway came up with the same conclusion. In their own study, 133 patients with bipolar disorder who later frequently used cannabis showed improved neurocognitive functioning, including improved attention span, verbal fluency, logic, learning and memory.
Clinical research also indicates that cannabis may be useful in treating schizophrenia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Braga says that there is still a lot of research to be done. Researchers even suggested one possible goal of identifying a method of treatment that mimics the positive effects of cannabis
“These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders,” reports Dr. Braga. “We hope that the results from our study will help guide and encourage future large studies and help further elucidate the multifaceted associations and possible impact of cannabis use in bipolar disorder.”
How do you know if you have a bipolar disorder? Obviously, check with your doctor, but be aware of some of its classic symptoms. Dramatic and unpredictable mood swings is a red flag for mania, according to WebMD. Excessive happiness, racing thoughts—plus anxiety, irritability and suicidal thoughts—are also warning signs of depression.