Joint Effects: A Pilot Investigation of the Impact of Bipolar Disorder and Marijuana Use on Cognitive Function and Mood

PLoS One. 2016 Jun 8;11(6):e0157060. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157060. eCollection 2016.


Marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in those diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. However, there is conflicting evidence as to whether marijuana may alleviate or exacerbate mood symptomatology. As bipolar disorder and marijuana use are individually associated with cognitive impairment, it also remains unclear whether there is an additive effect on cognition when bipolar patients use marijuana. The current study aimed to determine the impact of marijuana on mood in bipolar patients and to examine whether marijuana confers an additional negative impact on cognitive function. Twelve patients with bipolar disorder who smoke marijuana (MJBP), 18 bipolar patients who do not smoke (BP), 23 marijuana smokers without other Axis 1 pathology (MJ), and 21 healthy controls (HC) completed a neuropsychological battery. Further, using ecological momentary assessment, participants rated their mood three times daily as well as after each instance of marijuana use over a four-week period. Results revealed that although the MJ, BP, and MJBP groups each exhibited some degree of cognitive impairment relative to HCs, no significant differences between the BP and MJBP groups were apparent, providing no evidence of an additive negative impact of BPD and MJ use on cognition. Additionally, ecological momentary assessment analyses indicated alleviation of mood symptoms in the MJBP group after marijuana use; MJBP participants experienced a substantial decrease in a composite measure of mood symptoms. Findings suggest that for some bipolar patients, marijuana may result in partial alleviation of clinical symptoms. Moreover, this improvement is not at the expense of additional cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Bipolar Disorder* / physiopathology
  • Bipolar Disorder* / psychology
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse* / physiopathology
  • Marijuana Abuse* / psychology
  • Pilot Projects