Does cannabis help bipolar disorder?

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Can I ask you what you know about marijuana and bipolar disorder? The Internet and doctors say it doesn’t help, but they also push that you take your prescription meds heavily. It seems like I would be trading one thing for another. I’m just curious, as my girlfriend is bipolar II and had a wonderful experience with smoking last week, and wants to smoke more.


Thank you for your question. The quick answer: Anecdotal evidence says weed may indeed help with bipolar disorder, but there are no studies to back up that claim.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, published a study ( showing anecdotal benefits. But he also states that performing an actual scientific study is made virtually impossible because of government restrictions on marijuana. Don’t get me started on the BS of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s stance on medical cannabis, although its stance may change soon, since Dr. Sanjay Gupta has come out in favor of medical marijuana.

When I worked at a cannabis dispensary, there were plenty of patients that used cannabis to help with their bipolar issues. I also asked my friends on Facebook what they knew, and here are a few responses:

“I am bipolar and smoke, as well as take medication. I do find marijuana beneficial and haven’t had any of the negative reactions I’ve heard others have had. For me, green helps with my anxiety and insomnia, as well as the physical symptoms that can come from stress.”

“As someone with firsthand experience, I can tell you that marijuana will provide mood stabilization for the short term, maybe three months after starting to use it, but in the long run, one will turn into an absolute train wreck.”

“I am bipolar- 1- mixed; moderate with rapid cycling. I am on an SSRI and I also take an Anti-Seizure medication as a mood stabilizer, but I have been able to stay on low doses. When it comes to using marijuana, I find that a sativa makes it worse, but an indica or an indica dominant hybrid improves it. My psychiatrist doesn’t have a problem with my use and my primary doctor is fine with it, and they are both aware of my prior cocaine addiction. It really works as a mood stabilizer; improving my mood during a depressive episode and the indica slows me down during manic episodes.”

I would say to tread carefully. Avoid high THC strains, because THC is the psychoactive part of the weed plant, and too much THC can cause anxiety and paranoia. Look into strains high in cannabidiol, like Harlequin, Cannatonic or Sour Tsunami, as CBD has been shown to help with anxiety. Make sure your doctor knows what you are doing, and start with a small dose at first.