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 Marcia Purse

Marijuana, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

By January 12, 2014

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My good friend John McManamy has written a thoughtful blog about the possible use of medical marijuana as a treatment for mania. Off the top of my head, I think the risks outweigh any possible benefits, but the topic is worth discussing.

In 2010 I reported on a study looking for links between cannabis and the development of psychosis and bipolar. And back in 2005 a Dutch study found that marijuana use doubled the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Since both bipolar depression and mania can have psychotic features, there is at least some evidence that even medical marijuana use might increase the likelihood of hallucinations and delusions.

As McManamy says, substance abuse is quite prevalent among those with bipolar disorder. People have used alcohol and drugs to try to control their systems in great numbers. When the "cure" is the disease, it's called dual diagnosis.

What do you think?

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January 12, 2014 at 9:13 pm
(1) Alex says:

It should be noted in the test that showed marjuana was bad for schizophrenics it was found beneficial for those with bipolar disorder. I do have the opinion that it still should be used in moderation if one were to try it out.

The article leaves out high CBD (a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana) which has been shown to be beneficial for people who are bipolar and is currently being tested due to the pressure put on our govt where their children are severely afflicted with bipolar disorder such as Dravets syndrome. I would suggest watching at least the second half of Dr Sanjay Gupta’s special entitled “Weed” where he explains that he has gone 180 degrees on medical marijuana and says our govt lied to him. that from the man who was given the chance to be the attorney general of the USA. In the last half you can see the piece involving A young girl with Dravet syndrome who was severely afflicted and with an extract of marijuana ( of a high cbd strain) . It is revealing how obviously her health was improved.

January 13, 2014 at 8:47 am
(2) Walter says:

I think correlation doesn’t equal causation.

January 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm
(3) NANCY L. says:


January 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm
(4) Dan Feldman says:

My son was misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 5 years ago. He really has a genetic blood disorder called Porphyria. This mimics Bipolar and had several shrinks fooled. So, of course, they gave him the standard drugs, which made him worst. His primary psychiatrist also said Marijuna was ok. It turned out that it makes Porphyria victims worst too, big time, as does alcohol. DO NOT ASSUME THE DIAGNOSIS IS CORRECT IF YOU ARE SHOWING SIDE EFFECTS. We were finally stabilized him after treatment in Mexico for several months. Please tell patients like Nancy, there is hope, especially for intense abdominal pain and severe manic behavior.

January 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm
(5) Annie says:

I think marijuana is a drug like anything else. It can have side effects with some people and can be abused. There are different strains which have different effects. It helps me with chronic pain, but some strains make my anxiety go through the roof. I don’t use it often, but when I am having a hard time and haven’t been able to sleep for over a week because of the pain, I will use a little and sleep. THAT not only helps my body, but my mood, too.

I think if it were regulated and treated like a pharma, it would be a great addition to many people’s arsenal in medical care.

January 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm
(6) carecanada says:

CBC TV;s Nature of Things with Dr. David Suzuki indicated that in a minority of people marijuana can trigger psychosis that may never have come about otherwise….It is not necessarily a benign herb for people vulnerable to bi polar reactions or characteristics. Most of the population can use it and enjoy it, but in perhaps 2 per cent it can trigger a psychotic episode that might not have otherwise occurred according to the researchers on the Nature of Things….It was heartbreaking to hear testimony of teenagers and their parents..These teens had had not previous bipolar indicators until they smoked marijuana. A larger per cent of the population become addicted to alcohol than marijuana. addiction…However this addiction to marijuana, can occur. in a minority… Even S. Gupta does not endorse marijuana for the young, developing, (teenage) brain….It does not fully devilop until age 26…Thus higher automobile insurance for the teens…more impulsive.brain not fully developed…. …

January 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm
(7) morgan says:

I live in Washington state and have been using medicinal marijuana for my bipolar symptoms for years now. It is necessary to understand which strain is for calming the mind. I find it does help with my manic episodes. If I’m anxious I don’t smoke it, I take it in capsule form or edible. I stay away from the Sativa and use Indica only. A Sativa strain will, for the most part, trigger panic episodes with me. I use it along with my regular meds and I find it very beneficial for staying “level” headed. It makes pain management so much easier as well.
On the flip side, I am not fooling myself to think there is no damage done smoking it. In my opinion it is just as hard on the lungs (or worse) than cigarettes. Look at a pipe that has been used a few times. That residue has to have an adverse effect on the lungs. One should take this into consideration – benefit vs. negative side effects.

January 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm
(8) riverfork says:

I smoke weed nearly everyday. Bi-polar, with hypomania. I grew two plants in 2012. It’s not strong herb and I still have plenty left (in 2014). I feel I’m a moderate user, although daily. I don’t smoke it during several months out of the year. I take other daily meds. all year ’round. Marijuana helps me feel calmer, in most cases. I managed to give up cigarettes when I grew those plants. Medical marijuana is far stronger than what I have. Probably strong enough to carry warnings.

January 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm
(9) shaun says:

I am diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I have not had an episode in 20 years.
I only take 600mg.of lithium daily. I refuse to drink any alcohol or use any drugs(especially marijuana).When I was younger I would self medicate with drugs and alcohol and then stop taking my meds. That would ALWAYS send me back into the hospital. I spent all of 15 years trying to self-medicate. And it does not work. Marijuana produces psychosis. We cannot change that, no matter how much we enjoy the effects. The long term effects are not worth the high.

January 20, 2014 at 5:34 am
(10) Suzy says:

I’ve had bipolar for almost 27 years. I tried so many anti depressants, anti-anxieties and anti-psychotics. It turns out that one of the anti psychotics I was taking (throughout the years) led me into developing a rare neurological movement disorder..

When I was a teenager, I smoked weed all the time. I quit back in 1987. I tried it again in 1997 and from there on out, I was a very social smoker. It wasn’t daily, or even weekly. It depended on my off time, vacations, etc. After my movement disorders, I researched it extensively and found that marijuana can be helpful with relaxing the muscles, and it is!

My psychiatrist knows I have bipolar and she treats me with some meds and medical marijuana. She’s always after me to make sure I’m taking my medicinal marijuana. She said I have to keep taking it so many x per day, just like my other meds, so as you can see, my own psychiatrist not only wrote a prescription for me, but for other patients also with Bipolar. She never brought it up. I actually told her I smoked a little and then she said to do it legally, and the rest is history.

January 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm
(11) IJR says:

The idea that marijuana causes schizophrenia is ridiculous.

The number of people with schizophrenia has remained constant since the 1950s. The amount of people that use marijuana has risen sharply since then. Shouldn’t we see a corresponding rise in schizophrenia if marijuana caused it?

February 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm
(12) Joshua says:

This is an interesting issue, and I want to thank you for bringing it to the discussion. I have not read any thorough studies on the effects of marijuana, nor am I an expert by any means. However, my personal story suggests that weed has been very harmful to my mind. Perhaps I was not inhaling the proper strains, or maybe I wasn’t taking it in the proper form (capsule, edible, etc.).

I am not saying that marijuana cannot be helpful; in fact, I am encouraged by some of your testimonies about how you have found peace and rest in using it. All I am saying is that there are a few of us who should avoid weed in its entirety, and we know who we are.

It was incredibly difficult to admit that I was different than my closest buddies. They could smoke and have no problems at all. I wanted to fit in with them again so badly. I was 21 at the time and had smoked weed for 2 & 1/2 years with them before it triggered the first of two severe manic episodes. I fully believe that my mind is very sensitive and marijuana would just open the door for confusion, doubts, and paranoia.

It took me a long time to admit to myself that I am not like the majority of people. I must remind myself of that daily, and I think I am now beginning to embrace myself and who I was made to be. Maybe I am in that select 2% that carecanada mentioned. I don’t think that it’s fair to me and those like me to make a blanket statement saying that, “The idea that marijuana causes schizophrenia is ridiculous.”

There is far more to each of our stories – stories that are utterly ridiculous at times and purely poetic at other times.

March 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm
(13) insanelogic says:

i know these studies have been done saying that marijuana can cause psychotic episodes…well my family has been smoking it for 3 generations, both sides. not one of us has ever witnessed this “2%” phenomena! none of my friends either. this is a huge group of people. i believe that some people are predisposed to certain things, and yes, a drug like thc may make this worse in some, but how can we ever know if they would have snapped from something totally benign regardless of taking marijuana???? we CAN NOT KNOW this for sure! so quick to blame one aspect, which is rarely the case in anything! multiple factors must be brought in including genetics and environment. i’ve been smoking since in was 18, diagnosed bipolar since i was 16. weed is the best thing for me, better than ativan or valium (addictive substances with side effects) or any other ‘downer’. when i get sick to my stomach, it cures it (i also suffer from IBS) no problem. it calms me and takes away the pain i feel from my other disabilities as well. i am now 33. all these years of my life cannot be a lie or completely unknown to science! look at the big picture and anyone can see, it helps 1000x more than it hurts. wanna fight harmful substances? try alcohol and cigarettes, how many self medicate with these and end up hurting or killing themselves or others….

March 12, 2014 at 2:18 pm
(14) insanelogic says:

joshua, it is a proper statement. marijuana cannot cause what isn’t already there. whether it was through smoking weed, drinking alcohol, studying too hard. etc any one of these things can bring out what is hiding in your mind. they do not CAUSE it, they merely open the doors easier for it to manifest. it IS ridiculous to say that marijuana CAUSES schizophrenia or other psychosis. the numbers alone dictate that it cannot be true. if you have a problem to begin with, yes maybe then it can exacerbate it, but it cannot make you sick with an illness you ALREADY carry within you. it’s a drug that relies on state of mind. my husband doesn’t smoke, it makes him paranoid, scared etc and yet he does not have any illness. when one is happy when doing it, you get a better result, if you are worried paranoid, scared, you get a bad result as with alcohol. drink while happy, good for you, drink while angry bad for everyone around you!!! just a thought.

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