Bipolar Disorder May Be Ameliorated By Pot Smoking, Research Finds

Bipolar disorder has been in the news a lot lately, but a new study shows that the psychiatric condition might be helped by a slightly less conventional therapy — marijuana.

Bipolar disorder is just one of the conditions that, through the years, advocates of marijuana say can be helped by smoking the popular yet almost-always illegal herb. Certain eye conditions, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain are also often cited as treatable with marijuana, but psychiatric conditions have long been thought to be a mixed bag when it comes to the use of marijuana in general.

But a new study on bipolar disorder and pot smoking has yielded a surprising result, indicating that those diagnosed suffering from the condition have demonstrated better mental health overall when having used marijuana versus those who had not experimented with the banned herb.

Researchers at Zucker Hillside Hospital on Long Island looked at 200 participants, 150 of whom had not smoked marijuana in the past versus 50 who had used the drug at some point. All participants experienced onset of bipolar disorder at a standard age, consistently.

Through a series of tests, they determined that participants who had used marijuana in the past showed improved neurocognitive performance compared with those with bipolar disorder who had never used marijuana.

Researchers wrote:

“Results from our analysis suggest that subjects with bipolar disorder and history of (marijuana use) demonstrate significantly better neurocognitive performance, particularly on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory.”

They continued:

“These findings are consistent with a previous study that demonstrated that bipolar subjects with history of cannabis use had superior verbal fluency performance as compared to bipolar patients without a history of cannabis use. Similar results have also been found in schizophrenia in several studies.”

However, they pointed out that enhanced functioning may be a precipitate of the ability to acquire marijuana versus an effect of its use:

“These data could be interpreted to suggest that cannabis use may have a beneficial effect on cognitive functioning in patients with severe psychiatric disorders. However, it is also possible that these findings may be due to the requirement for a certain level of cognitive function and related social skills in the acquisition of illicit drugs.”

The results of the research on bipolar disorder and marijuana were published in the online edition of the journal Psychiatry Research.