Canadians For Safe Access  
grassroots, action-oriented patient rights
Home >> Research >> Bi-Polar

Cannabis Research - Bi-Polar

Cannabinoids in bipolar affective disorder: a review and discussion of their therapeutic potential

C. H. Ashton, P. B. Moore, P. Gallagher and A. H. Young

Abstract - Bipolar affective disorder is often poorly controlled by prescribed drugs. Cannabis use is common in patients with this disorder and anecdotal reports suggest that some patients take it to alleviate symptoms of both mania and depression. We undertook a literature review of cannabis use by patients with bipolar disorder and of the neuropharmacological properties of cannabinoids suggesting possible therapeutic effects in this condition. No systematic studies of cannabinoids in bipolar disorder were found to exist, although some patients claim that cannabis relieves symptoms of mania and/or depression. The cannabinoids Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) may exert sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic, antidepressant, antipsychotic and anticonvulsant effects. Pure synthetic cannabinoids, such as dronabinol and nabilone and specific plant extracts containing THC, CBD, or a mixture of the two in known concentrations, are available and can be delivered sublingually. Controlled trials of these cannabinoids as adjunctive medication in bipolar disorder are now indicated. Keywords bipolar disorder, cannabidiol, cannabinoids, cannabis, CBD, depression, dronabinol, mania, nabilone, tetrahydrocannabinol, THC

J Psychopharmacol 2005; 19; 293
DOI: 10.1177/0269881105051541

The use of cannabis as a mood stabilizer in bipolar disorder: anecdotal evidence and the need for clinical research.

Grinspoon L, Bakalar JB. J Psychoactive Drugs. 1998 Apr-Jun;30(2):171-7.
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

The authors present case histories indicating that a number of patients find cannabis (marihuana) useful in the treatment of their bipolar disorder. Some used it to treat mania, depression, or both. They stated that it was more effective than conventional drugs, or helped relieve the side effects of those drugs. One woman found that cannabis curbed her manic rages; she and her husband have worked to make it legally available as a medicine. Others described the use of cannabis as a supplement to lithium (allowing reduced consumption) or for relief of lithium's side effects. Another case illustrates the fact that medical cannabis users are in danger of arrest, especially when children are encouraged to inform on parents by some drug prevention programs. An analogy is drawn between the status of cannabis today and that of lithium in the early 1950s, when its effect on mania had been discovered but there were no controlled studies. In the case of cannabis, the law has made such studies almost impossible, and the only available evidence is anecdotal. The potential for cannabis as a treatment for bipolar disorder unfortunately can not be fully explored in the present social circumstances.

PMID: 9692379 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]