Reefer Cures Madness: Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder

25 mins read

By Alice Ayers

A personal account of how cannabis saved me.

, Reefer Cures Madness: Cannabis and Bipolar Disorder, ISMOKEFirst of all I will explain a little about me – I am what you might call a fully-fledged cannabis smoker, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, but did not begin smoking on a regular basis until 2010. Despite an initially rocky relationship with the plant, there is now no doubt for me that the so called ‘drug’ has medicinal value, not only for people with mental illnesses, but for an unspeakable amount of people all over the world, suffering with an untold variety of different conditions. I truly believe that cannabis saved me, I able to live a normal and happy life because of it, it helps me to see clearly, for others it eases the pain, lessens the symptoms, for some it heals. I have come to realise that cannabis being illegal is one of the greatest injustices of our time. How can it possibly be just to deny people any form of medicine? Am I to spend the rest of my life classed as a criminal? I have tried to give an honest, personal account of my experiences with cannabis -as someone with a mental illness – and I hope it will go some way to proving that for one person at least, cannabis is not harmful!

‘Bipolar Disorder’ is a label I am still reluctant to succumb to, yet the diagnosis seems to fit well:

In bipolar or manic-depressive disorder, major depression alternates with uncontrollable elation, or mania. Symptoms of depression include loss of interest and pleasure in life, sadness, irrational guilt, inability to concentrate, appetite loss, lethargy, and chronic fatigue. Manic symptoms include sleeplessness, tirelessness (until exhaustion leads to a breakdown), and recklessly gregarious and expansive behaviour, which sometimes turns to irritability, rage and paranoid delusions.

There are many descriptions of the disorder that I could have used; I borrowed this one from an article by Lester Grinspoon, M.D. & James B. Bakala, entitled  ‘The Use of Cannabis as a Mood Stabilizer in Bipolar Disorder: Anecdotal Evidence and the Need for Clinical Research’ and so, it seemed quite appropriate and fits the bill well. At one time or another I have experienced all of the above symptoms, sometimes I wouldn’t even realise I was experiencing them until I looked back on it. Months at a time could go by, I’d feel normal, but I’d be doing everything at a million miles an hour, cramming my days with activities, spending my money like water, feeling invincible. But then my world would all come crashing down around me. What had I been thinking? What had I been doing all these months, racking up debts I couldn’t pay; thinking I was spectacular, but now I felt worthless.

I will not self-indulge in a long detailed account of my history or what I feel may have led to my behaviour. I will simply say that I experienced some difficulties while growing up, as many of us do. I believe no one individual’s hurts should be devalued by another’s who may seem more or less severe- we are all human after all and are all affected in different ways by the events in our lives. Besides, it is hard to say what really triggered my bipolar, it could have been events in my past, it could be hereditary – there is a history of mental illness in both sides of my family – just a chemical imbalance in my brain perhaps.

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