Stipendiat Levi Røstad Kvitland
Cannabis use and early bipolar disorder
Bipolar disease is a psychiatric illness with incidents rates for about one per cent of the population. The debut is between 15 and 25 years old. The illness is characterized by pathological mood swings, of depressive, manic (hypomanic) character, with long periods of normal functioning in-between. The illness has high mortality rates.
Cand.psychol. Levi Røstad Kvitland
Why should we care?
WHO have put bipolar disorder on top 10 of burden of disease worldwide and a central question has been why the illness appears? Until recently only family history and genetics has been viewed as Central.New research points at drugs, and cannabis in special as a risk factor for developing the disease, and furthermore cannabis use deteriorates the conditions for individuals suffering from bipolar disorder.
Drug use is common in bipolar disorder, and as many as 50 – 60 % of early bipolar patients in Oslo have used drugs at first treatment. This combined with the fact that cannabis is one of the most common drugs used worldwide (approximately 2.6 – 5 % of the world population has used cannabis).Earlier research has shown age at onset, increased risk for psychosis; higher disability rates, heightened risk for suicide, as well as heightened risk for manic episodes are all associated with use of cannabis. Furthermore cannabis has been shown to increase gray matter loss, and such has a direct impact on the brain.
Earlier research as unfortunately only looked at patients with established bipolar disorder, and such will be omitting a lot of patients not in the system at the time of inclusion. By examining first episodes all types of bipolar I patients will be included, and thus one can better see the direct impact of cannabis use before and after the beginning of the disease.
In our study we have documented an earlier onset of bipolar disorder I for patients using cannabis (1), and we are currently investigating the longitudinal impact of cannabis on symptoms. Furthermore the project will explore the implications of duration of untreated illness both in time and episodes, all in relation with cannabis use.