Safe to Self-Medicate with Pot?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I have self medicated for bipolar with pot. I have had bipolar since I was at least 8 ( thats when looking back, after knowing the symptoms) and it made my adolescent years very tough. I didn’t start using pot regularly until I was at least 20 or 21, but also abused and used other drugs including alcohol and cocaine. In late 2002 I went straight and was diagnosed bipolar with hypo-mania. I tried lithium for about a year and after it triggered psoriasis, high blood pressure, and decreased mental abilities (to name a few) I quit the medication in late 2003. I was able to manage my symptoms to a point, my wife just seemed to tolerate my late night manic episodes because I pretty much kept to my self in the basement trying to recreate the word as we know it, and my depressive side never seemed to last long enough to cause a real issue.

Then in early 2007 we had our first child. Something we both wanted and prepared for. 2 months later for whatever reason (mania? I don’t know) I started smoking pot once again. I had no cravings for it or any other drug and pot is all I’ve done. Alcohol is legal and MUCH easier to obtain, but the thought of taking a drink literally make me queasy. I have only smoked during an episode because it seemed to ease the spike in the symptom long enough for me to regain control. I haven’t had to smoke continually, just enough to take the edge off. During a manic episode it calms me and slows thought so I can recognize the mania and stop and most of the time engage in some type of physical activity. During depression it would help me reassess the situation and get more of a “half full” perspective. Naturally I hid this from my wife and family with great inner-conflict. I haven’t used for a while and when I experience an episode (especially mania) I am at a loss and then I get thrown in to depression and hopelessness over my situation. Like most I can’t afford real treatment and have no faith in any of the currently accepted treatments. What I need to know I guess is my resurgence in pot smoking just another bad manic decision or is there a real legal option here? I don’t care if I can smoke it (really I’d rather take a pill), but pills and such just don’t work quickly enough to quell an episode and I don’t think THC can be taken daily like lithium as a regulator. I will listen to any advice you might have, and could I somehow get an email along with the public posting? In a manic state I don’t usually check back on sites and stuff I get too sidetracked! Thank you for your time.

A. There are states where marijuana can be used for medical purposes. Do you live in one of those states? Is it possible that marijuana can ease your symptoms and help you remain in control? Some people report this anecdotally but no conclusive scientific evidence exists. You should discuss this with a psychiatrist, especially one in a state where medical use is allowed. Perhaps, you are using this as an excuse to simply use marijuana once again; perhaps not. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug. So is lithium. You need medical guidance before you take any psychoactive drug, legal or illegal. Therapy might also help you, much more than you might think. You need to research this and the only place to start is with the guidance of a medical doctor (a psychiatrist is a medical doctor). Good luck.

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Sep 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Safe to Self-Medicate with Pot?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/09/15/safe-to-self-medicate-with-pot/