Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse“The biggest problem alcohol use poses for people with bipolar is how it interacts with moods.”

~ Dr. Henry R. Kranzler, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Studies of Addiction, University of Pennsylvania

People dealing with a dual diagnosis of both mental and addictive disorders must be especially vigilant during their recovery if they want to effectively manage the symptoms of their co-occurring illnesses. This is particularly true for people struggling with bipolar disorder.

The manic highs and depressive lows that characterize bipolar disorder can make life difficult for sufferers. When they are UP, a person with BPD will be energetic and feel creative, but they may also have poor impulse control, experience sleep disturbances, and be prone to risky behaviors. And when they are DOWN, they may lose the ability to feel any pleasure at all. This means they quickly lose interest in everything they used to enjoy—hobbies, social interaction, or even eating.

Self-Medication—a Dangerous Remedy

As a result, many BPD patients try to contain their symptoms with alcohol or drug use, hoping to:

  • “Dial down” manic symptoms
  • Ease emotional pain
  • Feel “normal”

Opioids, stimulants, and especially alcohol are used, misused, and abused in an attempt to contain BPD symptoms. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of BPD patients abuse substances at some point.

A Self-Perpetuating Cycle

But here’s the thing—substance abuse actually WORSENS bipolar disorder:

  • Marijuana can trigger manic episodes
  • Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine produce highs and lows resembling BPD.
  • Alcohol and opioids can deepen depression.

Just as relevant, alcohol and drug abuse can have serious consequences—relationship problems, legal difficulties, health issues—that can also contribute to added stress, anxiety, and depression.

How to Get Help for Comorbid Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

When these two kinds of illnesses occur together, the key to successful recovery is receiving integrative treatment that addresses BOTH conditions simultaneously. Providers work cooperatively using a shared strategy.

This is necessary because each illness—addiction and BPD—exacerbates the other if left untreated.

Lasting Recovery outpatient alcohol and drug rehab in San Diego specializes in the evidence-based treatment of dual diagnoses. If you need help, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY for a confidential assessment.

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