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CBD for Bipolar Disorder: Can It Help? 

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects 1 in 50 people in the UK (1.3 million people). It’s characterised by significant mood swings – including manic highs and depressive lows – that can last for several weeks (or much longer). These mood fluctuations can be disruptive for day-to-day activities, and can impact relationships, work, school and family life. 

There are several options for treating bipolar disorder, including mood stabilisers to prevent episodes, medicine to treat symptoms of depression and mania, psychological treatment, and lifestyle changes. Cannabidiol, or CBD, has also been identified as a possible method to prevent and manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about CBD for bipolar disorder, including its effectiveness, potential benefits, drawbacks, and its safety profile.

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of the compounds found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound and does not induce the “high” or other intoxication symptoms often associated with cannabis. Indeed, THC use in bipolar disorder is associated with earlier onset of illness, psychotic symptoms, suicide, and misuse of other substances, but this is not the same for CBD. Instead, CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and influences its CB1 and CB2 receptors, which can help to regulate several of our cognitive and physical functions, such as pain and mood. 

You can take CBD in various forms, including oils, tinctures, tablets and capsules, edibles (gummies), topicals (products applied to the skin) and vape pens.

CBD is not an official treatment for bipolar disorder and there is limited research on the effects of CBD in people with bipolar. However, existing research does suggest that there are some potential therapeutic benefits.

A 2020 review of studies concluded that CBD and CBD-containing compounds were helpful in alleviating psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairment in patients with a variety of mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. Although they concluded that CBD was ineffective for bipolar mania, its antidepressant effects mean it could be effective for unipolar (major depressive episode) and bipolar depression (manic depression).  Indeed, another 2020 review concluded that cannabidiol represents a potentially novel therapeutic strategy for depression, with mechanism of action distinct from the traditional antidepressant medication.

This same 2020 review concluded that there is a lack of evidence to recommend cannabidiol as a treatment for mood disorders (and that there is an urgent need for clinical trials), but that considering the preclinical and clinical evidence related to other diseases, CBD might still have a role as a treatment for mood disorders. In particular, the researchers noted that an important potential advantage of testing cannabidiol in mood disorders is its well-known effect on anxiety, including physiological anxiety, social phobia and even anxiety associated with heroin abstinence. Because 34.7% of patients with bipolar disorder in patients with bipolar disorder have a comorbid diagnosis of anxiety disorder and many more have anxiety symptoms associated with depressive episodes, CBD’s anti-anxiety effects could be useful for people with mood disorders.

Bipolar disorder is associated with alterations in brain structure and function, including changes in neuronal connectivity and inflammation. CBD has demonstrated neuroprotective properties in animal models, potentially mitigating some of the neurobiological changes observed in bipolar disorder. Indeed, researchers in the abovementioned review concluded that the neuroprotective effects of cannabidiol could help arrest the neuroprogression that occurs over the long-term in bipolar disorder. 

In addition to this, research indicates that, of all mental disorders, bipolar disorder is the most likely to co-occur with alcohol or drug abuse. CBD has shown therapeutic potential in the treatment of addiction by reducing cravings, relapse and withdrawal symptoms, and providing stress and anxiety relief.

 Some evidence suggests that it also might have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. While pain and inflammation are not core symptoms of bipolar disorder, they can co-occur with the condition. Indeed, studies show that elevated levels of certain inflammatory pro-cytokines are present in the manic phase and depressive phases of bipolar disorder and normalise when patients have returned back to a neutral phase. From this, researchers suggest that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may lead to advances in how we treat bipolar disorder.

In short, although research related to the specific impact of CBD on bipolar disorder is limited, CBD’s effective treatment of other disorders – such as anxiety and depression – make it a promising therapeutic agent for symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. However, more research is needed. The good news is that it’s coming soon; in February 2024, UBC researchers launched a clinical trial exploring CBD for bipolar depression which is set to enrol approximately 360 participants across Canada.

CBD is considered safe for consumption, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirming that CBD does not induce major side effects or physical dependence, does not get you high, and is not associated with abuse potential.

However, it can interact with certain medications, in particular those with a grapefruit warning. As many medications used to treat bipolar disorder carry this grapefruit warning, it is important that you consult with your doctor before taking CBD.

While CBD has shown potential benefits for bipolar disorder, one of the main concerns is that CBD can interact with medications commonly used to treat bipolar, so individuals should consult with their doctor before taking CBD. In addition to this, the CBD market is largely unregulated, leading to variability in product quality and purity, which means individuals need to shop with reputable brands. There are several other factors to consider before purchasing CBD:

  • Type of CBD: Broad-spectrum CBD is a great option for those who want to experience the effects of CBD without consuming THC, the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. Clinical reports suggest that broad or full-spectrum CBD may have a better effect due to the number of cannabinoids and other plant compounds they contain that work together, otherwise known as the entourage effect
  • Dosage: Finding the right dose and administration method can be a trial-and-error process as results can vary significantly from person to person. In general, you should start with a low dose and gradually increase it while monitoring its effects.
  • Source and Quality: Choose CBD derived from organically grown hemp, as this ensures minimal exposure to harmful chemicals. You should also look for third-party laboratory reports to verify how pure and potent your product is, and to ensure there are no contaminants.
  • Individual Variability: The effectiveness of CBD may vary from person to person; what works for one individual may not work for another.

CBD holds promise as a potential adjunctive therapy for managing symptoms of bipolar disorder, thanks to its anxiolytic, mood-stabilising, and neuroprotective properties.

While preclinical and anecdotal evidence suggests potential benefits of CBD for bipolar disorder, large-scale clinical trials are needed to confirm its efficacy and safety in people with bipolar disorder. CBD can also interact with certain medications commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, such as antipsychotics and mood stabilisers, so it is important that individuals consult with their doctor before incorporating CBD into their regime. It’s never recommended to replace your current medicine with CBD, or mix your current medicine with CBD, without the support of your treatment team.

Need additional help? Take our CBD Quiz for product recommendations in minutes or get in contact with our expert team – we’d love to hear from you.

We are Purity Hemp, the UK’s #1 Online CBD provider. Backed by science, and built on the principles of traceability, transparency & trust, we are dedicated to improving the health & wellness of people around the world. We are proud to be one of the only companies to guarantee full traceability from seed to shelf with our premium range of CBD products, tested by third-party, independent quality control analysts.

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Directions for Use:

  • Shake well before use
  • Add dose directly to your pet’s food, stirring it in if necessary
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Weight of Pet Regular Dosage Strong Dosage
Up to 20lbs/9kg 1 to 4 drops 4 to 8 drops
20 to 40lbs/9-18kg 2 to 8 drops 8 to 16 drops
Over 40lbs/18kg 4 to 20 drops 16 to 40 drops

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*This product is sold for use by pets only, as it contains CBD Isolate.

We recommend discussing the use of CBD with a qualified vet, especially if your pet is pregnant or nursing a litter.

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