As medical marijuana becomes legal in more states across the country, there’s been a spike in public interest to see whether cannabis can effectively treat mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis that are commonly associated with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, there are conflicts in scientific consensus for both supporting and opposing views of cannabis use for the treatment of mood disorders. Some studies have linked marijuana use with early-onset psychosis, while others suggest there are anti-psychotic benefits of cannabis in bipolar disorder patients.
It has been shown that cannabidiol has anti-psychotic properties, particularly anxiolytic benefits in humans. CBD possesses hypnotic, anti-convulsive, neuroprotective, and anti-stress benefits. Based on this evidence, research studies have begun to investigate the anxiolytic and antipsychotic benefits of CBD, which may be useful in effectively treating bipolar disorder.
The Neurochemistry of Bipolar Disorder and Cannabinoids
A dysfunctional endocannabinoid system (EC) has been implicated in mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, and modulation of the EC system by exogenous cannabinoids such as cannabidiol, tetrahydrocannabinol and anandamide can potentially treat bipolar disorder symptoms by exerting antipsychotic, anticonvulsant, and anxiolytic effects. Research studies have demonstrated the antipsychotic mechanism action of cannabidiol. Administration of cannabidiol may indirectly influence endogenous anandamide signaling by inhibiting intracellular metabolism by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Elevated levels of anandamide can attenuate mood disturbances and treat bipolar disorder symptoms.
Research studies have pointed out the role of the dopamine (DA) system in mood disorders, including bipolar disorder. The key role of the mesoaccumbens DA system has been proven in the reward pathway (neural circuitry) and motivational behaviors. Experimental studies being conducted to investigate the efficacy of anti-psychotic drugs are based on the hypothesis of dopamine, glutamate, and other neurotransmitters. These drugs exhibit antagonism to dopamine D2 receptors which is commonly linked with hyperprolactinemia due to action of anterior-pituitary mammotrophic cells. These drugs are called typical anti-psychotics (Clozapine) which cause Parkinson-like symptoms, while atypical anti-psychotics are also effective without causing serious adverse events, which can be confirmed by a catalepsy test.
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