mental illness and cannabis
mental illness and cannabis

I Live With Mental Illness, Can Cannabis Help?

Bipolar Illness Haunts 12 Million People Everyday

Posted by:
The Undercover Stoner on Tuesday Feb 28, 2017

Living With A Mental Illness: Can Cannabis Help?




My flight departed L.A. at 4:20 pm. 


It was like some sort of divine jest from the Ganja Gods, a cosmic sign, some form of stoner divination… of course my flight departed at 4:20, there could be no other way.


As I shuffled down the aisle to my seat in preparation for the last leg of my journey that would land me onto the soil of the place that I identify most with as being home, (Nashville, Tennessee), still under the hypnosis of the beautiful Purple Urkle that I had gotten a hold of during my ten hour layover in the City of Angels, not even the heavenly effects of a multi-colored Indica strain could blunt the sting of the reality I was facing. 


The reality itself was harsh and cold and frightening.


The reality was; the reality is, this: I am living with a mental illness that I cannot control and I need help before there is nothing left to be controlled because all has been lost to the mysterious void of the mental expanse. 


Bipolar is a notorious condition often used flippantly to describe hot headed, moody citizens who are quick to anger and slow to reason, but tell-tale indicators for a person living with the chemical imbalance are extreme highs in which there is intense euphoria, abnormal excitement and excessive energy. The symptoms of these manic high periods can also be marked with extremely risky behaviour that extend to lavish spending, rash business decisions or impulsive sexual encounters. 



But what must go up, must come down right?


The extreme highs that are indicative of the condition are also followed by flagship lows of severe depression in which the manic high stage is contradicted by extreme hopelessness, guilt, feelings of low self-worth and suicidal thoughts. If you were to ask me how to sum up this stage in the cycle of the illness, I’d tell you that it’s like all the hope, color and positivity is sucked out of you and what’s left is a void of nothingness.


Both the manic ups, as well as the manic downs of Bipolar can last hours, days, weeks or even months. 


This crushing mental disturbance of wild highs and lows affects slightly over 12 million people across the nation. 


The disorder itself is very sneaky and often goes undetected for decades before an adequate diagnosis can be reached- some will go their entire lives living with the illness, attributing all the relevant warning signs to being an “overly emotional person,” or simply having an anger problem.  Some fear the potential social ostracism and condescension of peers that may very well couple the admission of having a mental illness. 


In the same way, for many of the above stated reasons, I have lived for 32 years in denial of the facts, attributing my often wild, risky and spontaneous behaviour to free-spirited passion. But broken things have broken parts and certain areas of my life were falling apart so I had to step out in a moment of brutal honesty and put my hand up.



I am broken. I am one of those 12 million living with a cureless illness capable of taking everything I love if I cannot manage it efficiently.


As I am discovering, facing treatment for something like this can be a very scary thing. For someone who rallies against big pharma with such venom, the last thing I want to do is extend my hand to receive a chemically engineered medicant that may or may not produce a horde of undesirable side effects.


So what are my organic options? Can the healing herb that I stake so much of my life upon provide the healing that I need?


There can be little doubt that cannabis used to treat mental disorders is a highly controversial issue. Conflicting reports abound of some using cannabis to alleviate mania and depression, while other reports determine that the herb is an antagonist for mental instability. 



There is always going to be a divide on the issue of whether or not cannabis can be an effective treatment for a mental illness such as Bipolar. Whether or not you should be receiving any sort of medical treatment and the form in which such treatment is administered should always be discussed with a mental health professional, but understanding your options is an important part of that decision and having the civil right to choose your own medication should be a right, not a crime.


There are a number of studies that present promising evidence in using cannabis to treat Bipolar. One 2010 study conducted by researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway, examined 133 patients with Bipolar Disorder with the aim of determining the association between cannabis use and neurocognition in bipolar disorder compared with schizophrenia in a naturalistic setting. 
During the study, possible interactions between diagnosis and cannabis use were investigated, and findings were controlled for possible confounders. 


The result? Cannabis use by Bipolar patients was associated with better neurocognitive function, with the test subjects performing better than non-users on tests of verbal fluency and learning.


There are further studies to support the claim that cannabis use amongst the growing crowd of Bipolar sufferers does anything but cause more mental instability. A similar study, published in 2012 by researchers at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, examined a cohort of 200 men and women by comparing the subjects on clinical and demographic variables, as well as on performance on neurocognitive tests. In similar fashion to the research conducted in Oslo, subjects demonstrated significantly better performance on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory. 



Results like these give people like me hope, because honestly? Pharmaceutical remedies scare the shit out of me. Popular Bipolar treatment drugs like Lithium boast a vicious mass of unpleasantry that include heart palpitations, fainting, confusion and lack of awareness, (amongst others.) Lithium overdose can also be fatal. 


Understanding all the risks involved in medicating for a mental illness need to be taken seriously. Not everyone who takes Lithium is going to turn into a confused, drugged-up zombie and accidentally self-administer a fatal overdose, just like not everyone who decides to medicate with cannabis are exacerbating their condition.


As for me? I’m still evaluating my options, seeking professional advice and trying to determine which is the safest most effective treatment for me.


If you or anyone you know is suffering from a mental illness, the first step to take is owning it and talking to someone about it. 


Healing begins with honesty. There is always hope, whether that hope comes in the form of an organic herb or a pharmacological remedy is only a decision you can make.


Gotta run for now,











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