CBD for Bipolar Disorder: Does It Help?

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Bipolar disorder refers to a group of mental health disorders that cause extreme highs and lows in mood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMS), 4.4% of adults in the United States experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.

A person with bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, experiences disruptive mood fluctuations that interfere with their daily functioning in relationships, work, school, and family life. These mood fluctuations usually include both “high highs,” such as mania and hypomania, and “low lows” in the form of depressive episodes.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been touted as a possible way of treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder. While there’s some evidence that CBD oil can help people with bipolar disorder, there hasn’t been enough research to establish its long-term safety and effectiveness.

Learn more about CBD for bipolar disorder, including its safety, effectiveness, drawbacks, and alternatives.

Close-up of a hand holding a dropper filled with CBD oil and dropping it into a hot cup of tea sitting on a saucer on a table surrounded by cannabis plants and scoops of CBD products.

Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

What Is CBD?

CBD is one of the active ingredients in the Cannabis sativa plant (marijuana). Although it’s a chemical derived from marijuana, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In other words, CBD won’t get you “high” like THC.

CBD is believed to act on the body’s central nervous system to produce a calming, relaxing effect that could help with anxiety and other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder. Some evidence suggests that it also might have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.

Is CBD Addictive?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there’s no evidence of any risk of chemical dependency or addiction when it comes to CBD.

And while CBD’s legal restrictions vary from state to state, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has legalized its use for clinical trials. One product containing CBD—Epidiolex—was FDA approved in 2018 for use in the treatment of seizures in certain rare childhood epileptic disorders.

You can take CBD in various forms, including:

  • Oils
  • Tinctures (plant extracts dissolved in an alcohol solvent)
  • Tablets and capsules
  • Vaping
  • Edibles, such as gummies
  • Topicals, such as lotions and creams

Because CBD’s legal status varies so widely across the United States, it’s always wise to check your local and state laws before purchasing any product containing CBD.

The Science Behind CBD

CBD oil isn't yet established as an evidence-based treatment for bipolar disorder. Research is ongoing, with many clinical trials underway.

However, it’s believed that CBD works by acting on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system isn't yet entirely understood by researchers, but some believe it plays a role in many important functions, such as pain and mood regulation as well as inflammation. 

Early research indicates that CBD might serve as a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder.

One 2020 review argues that CBD might be helpful in the treatment of depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder due to its calming, antidepressant effects.

A 2020 clinical trial suggests that CBD could be beneficial as an “adjunctive,” or supplemental, treatment for bipolar depression.

CBD has also been shown to have an anxiety-reducing effect and shows therapeutic potential in the treatment of addictions. This could be beneficial to people with bipolar disorder because many people with mood disorders also have comorbid mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders and substance use disorder.

CBD and Its Potential Benefits

CBD is being investigated for use in the treatment of a number of mental health disorders and neurological conditions. These include schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Drawbacks

There are certain drawbacks to taking CBD for bipolar disorder. People who use CBD products might experience a range of side effects, including: 

CBD can also interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, and it can affect your liver enzymes.

If you take CBD, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know so they can warn you about any potential drug interactions or negative effects on your liver function. You also shouldn’t drink alcohol if you’re using CBD, as the interaction between the two substances could enhance their sedative effects. 

There's limited evidence in initial animal studies that the male reproductive system could be affected by CBD use. So if you’re trying to conceive, you might want to hold off on using CBD or ask your healthcare provider if CBD is safe to use. 

Also, most products containing CBD aren’t regulated or approved by the FDA. This means that you can’t guarantee that what you buy is safe, pure, or high-quality. A CBD product could contain THC or even contaminants like pesticides, so choose carefully.

CBD Alternatives

There are many evidence-based alternatives to using CBD for bipolar disorder symptoms. Here are some of the many available alternative treatments for bipolar disorder:

  • Medication: There are a number of prescription medications available to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers such as lithium, as well as anticonvulsants and antipsychotic drugs, may be prescribed by a psychiatrist to help regulate your moods. 
  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy with a trusted psychotherapist, as well as support groups led by qualified mental health counselors, can help you work through the emotional and social challenges of living with bipolar disorder. 
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help people with bipolar disorder by releasing endorphins that improve their sense of well-being. 
  • Relaxation and mindfulness techniques: Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, can have a calming effect and help you regulate your emotions in times of stress.
  • Sleep hygiene: Insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation can worsen the effects of bipolar disorder. Practicing good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night, can go a long way in curbing bipolar disorder symptoms.

Summary

Some researchers believe that CBD, a chemical compound derived from marijuana, could be helpful in treating some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.

Early evidence suggests that CBD oil could play a role in regulating mood and alleviating depression. Drawbacks can include mild to moderate side effects like nausea and fatigue, as well as potential drug interactions and negative effects on liver function.

Alternative treatments for bipolar disorder include prescription drugs, psychotherapy, mindfulness techniques, and lifestyle changes.

A Word From Verywell

CBD is widely believed to be safe and potentially effective in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. However, it’s not FDA approved as a treatment for bipolar disorder, and research into its benefits and long-term side effects is still ongoing.

If you decide to take CBD for bipolar disorder, make sure to let your healthcare provider know so they can warn you about any potential side effects or drug interactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does CBD interact with bipolar medications?

    Research on CBD and its potential interactions with other drugs is ongoing. There is some preliminary evidence that CBD could interact with lithium, which is frequently prescribed to people with bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer. This interaction could potentially cause lithium toxicity, a serious condition.

  • What’s the difference between CBD and cannabis?

    CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the chemical compounds (called “cannabinoids”) found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties; in other words, it won’t give you a “high.”

  • How do I find a high-quality CBD product?

    The only FDA-approved product containing CBD is a pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil called Epidiolex, which is used to prevent seizures in people with two different childhood epileptic disorders. Because most CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA, it’s important to check the product labels yourself. 

    Always check your CBD product’s certificate of analysis (COA) to see if it’s been tested for THC and contaminants. Also, CBD derived from hemp grown in the U.S. rather than overseas might be a safer bet in terms of the federal and local testing requirements.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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