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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar Disorder and drug addiction are two of the most common conditions affecting Americans today, but they are also two of the most misunderstood conditions. Bipolar disorder is a serious illness that causes the sufferer to experience dramatic and uncontrollable changes in mood and emotional state. And because this condition causes significant stress and disrupts nearly every aspect of life, drug addiction and alcoholism often co-occur with bipolar, as many people with this disorder will turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms. However, this provides only temporary relief and ultimately serves to exacerbate both problems significantly. Therefore, understanding the connections between bipolar and drug addiction is critical to treating sufferers effectively.

Bipolar is a very common condition that is poorly understood among the general public. The condition can be described as severe mood disruptions that can last from 2 weeks to several months or longer. During this time, sufferers of bipolar disorder will experience states of depression or mania during which their behavior can be extremely erratic and in some cases dangerous. According to Internet Mental Health, this condition potentially affects one in every twenty people, with serious consequences:
“Bipolar I Disorder affects both sexes equally in all age groups and its worldwide prevalence is approximately 3-5%.” And; “The condition has a high rate of recurrence and if untreated, it has an approximately 15% risk of death by suicide. It is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 years, and is the 6th leading cause of disability (lost years of healthy life) for people aged 15-44 years in the developed world.” (1)

The prevalence of bipolar disorder is disturbing considering the likelihood that a person suffering from this condition will also present with a substance abuse condition. However, it’s difficult to say whether people with bipolar are driven to drug use as a result of their symptoms, or if co-occurring drug use is unrelated to the condition. The National Institute of Mental Health states that in some cases, drug use can precipitate bipolar symptoms;

“Substance abuse is very common among people with bipolar disorder, but the reasons for this link are unclear. Some people with bipolar disorder may try to treat their symptoms with alcohol or drugs. However, substance abuse may trigger or prolong bipolar symptoms, and the behavioral control problems associated with mania can result in a person drinking too much.” (2)

Some professionals in the field feel that comorbidity is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to bipolar disorder and substance abuse or alcoholism. In an article for WebMD, Colette Bouchez writes;

“Doctors say they are increasingly seeing patients from all walks of life who suffer from a combination of substance abuse and mental health problems. Experts estimate that at least 60% of people battling one of these conditions are battling both.” (3)

If these figures are correct, this means that of every ten patients admitted to a drug addiction treatment center, 5 or more suffer from a mental health problem. Fortunately, addiction professionals know this and treat each patient accordingly using a variety of therapies. To learn more, call the number at the top of your screen 24 hours per day for a free consultation. If you suffer from bipolar or any other condition and drugs or alcohol have come to rule your life, it’s time to break free by calling us right now.

(1) Internet Mental Health Bipolar I Disorder
Accessed 09/03/2011

(2) National Institute of Mental Health Bipolar Disorder
Accessed 09/03/2011

(3) Bouchez, Colette Mental Illness and Substance Abuse WebMD
Accessed 09/03/2011

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More