Marijuana Might Be the Right Medicine for Bipolar Disorder

When Kanye West released his ye album on June 1, 2018, it came with a brave disclaimer: “I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome.”

I had a moment of appreciation for Kanye for disclosing this personal information with the world and I had empathy for him in that moment. While the majority may have read that statement and thought, “Wow, he’s lost his mind,” I sided with the percentage of the population that suffers from bipolar disorder.

Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health reveal that in any given year, bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adults, or about 2.6 percent of the US population. In addition, almost 10 million people will develop the mental illness at some point during their lives, and about half of these will never receive the correct diagnosis or treatment.

In light of these numbers, I applaud Kanye for his bravery, because his willingness to open up encouraged others, such as myself, to do the same. However, it’s his controversial line about turning his bipolar disorder into a “superpower” in the song “Yikes” that most professionals have a problem with.

New York City-based licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) Matt Lundquist writes, “I think calling anything a superpower outside the realm of fiction can be dangerous,” alluding to the fact that Kanye is glorifying this mental illness and giving folks the idea that treatment is not necessary. For a psychotherapist, he said this is alarming, going on to explain that therapy and treatment for bipolar disorder is complex and focused on helping those afflicted build their lives.

After struggling with insomnia, depression, anxiety, and addiction for most of my life, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year or two ago. My parents flew me home to the Bay Area and drove an hour to see a psychiatrist in Berkeley, California. That was one of the harshest, most enlightening therapy sessions I’ve ever had. The therapist told me I could get on lithium, but it would alter my mindset and cause weight changes, or I could stick it out.

“It gets better with age,” she said.

She also told me she’s surprised I haven’t “offed myself yet,” words that haunt me to this day.

Immediately, my mind was flooded with moments where I have fancied the thought, but also countless near-death experiences in my manic state. One example is driving on the shoulder of the freeway at more than 60 mph to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic, to have missed hitting the wall by only an inch.

Marijuana really helps me find that middle ground between manic highs and extreme lows. Recently, I discovered how having a vape pen with me has changed my life. Suddenly, I’m less high-strung, less anxious, and less worried. But more importantly, marijuana helps bring me out of those sunken states I so often fall victim to.

A study published in 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE revealed preliminary evidence that patients with bipolar disorder who regularly smoked marijuana reported at least short-term clinical symptom alleviation following use, highlighting the flower’s potential mood-stabilizing capabilities.

Moments where I catch myself being overly-sensitive or irritable are times where I appreciate the flower most, as it brings me back to neutral and reminds me life is going to be okay.

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