Someone sent me a link to this article several weeks ago actually, but I wanted to track down the source before writing about it. It took me quite a long time, but there is an original abstract for the research document here.
The abstract is for a paper written by a team led by Raphael J. Braga, associated with a series of Hospitals and teams in New York state. The study was done on a series of patients with Bipolar type I, 50 of whom had a history of cannabis use, and 150 of whom did not. These two patient groups are said to not have differed in age, age of onset, or global assessment of functioning.
The group with history of cannabis use did, however, have more male patients, and patients in this group also had a higher instance of history of psychosis.
But here’s the kicker; patients in the cannabis use group demonstrated significantly better performance on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory.
“The history of CUD (“cannabis use disorder”) is associated with history of psychosis, suggestive of poorer clinical prognosis. Interestingly, bipolar patients with history of CUD had better neurocognitive performance as compared to patients with no history of CUD.” (Pulled from the paper abstract.)
Ok, so what does this mean?
It doesn’t surprise me that cannabis users were found to have an increased occurrence of psychosis. After all, I’ve heard accounts from perfectly rational, mentally healthy people who used cannabis and experienced psychotic-type symptoms; anything from intense paranoia, to visual or audible hallucinations. If this is something that can occur for a mentally healthy individual, I would expect it to be more likely to occur for anyone who has experienced psychosis on their own. At the same time, it is possible that the state of relaxation cannabis use can put someone into might make psychotic symptoms seem much less threatening or overwhelming… which is something of a trade off for someone who is experiencing them anyway.
Washington state is one of 17 states (18, if you count the District of Columbia in there) that have legalized medical cannabis use, and I think medical marijuana is one of the number one things people with bipolar disorder send me questions about.
Is it safe?
Is it helpful?
Is a medical card something bipolar disorder would qualify me for?
I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of medical marijuana for things like PTSD and anxiety, and even occasionally about depression. Solid research, however, up to this point about cannabis use and Bipolar disorder has been hard to come by.
I think a lot of research is being done lately using substances that have been found in “unlikely places” (think of the recent research regarding magic mushrooms, or ketamine) and I, for one, am glad people are willing to think outside the box for potential treatment options for things like depression and bipolar disorder, which are very difficult to live with.
Like anything else, I’ve had some people with bipolar disorder tell me that medical marijuana has really helped them, and I have had other people tell me that they didn’t like it at all and it seemed to make things worse. Like any medication your doctor might prescribe, it doesn’t effect everyone the same way. This latest research seems to show cannabis use for this group may be more helpful than many people expected, but like anything else… it isn’t a miracle cure. I think if we keep that in mind, there are many treatment options we can try that might be helpful!