Teenage girl and her mother meeting in a family therapist's offi

Patients may be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, or bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS) – and a co-occurring diagnosis of addiction is not uncommon.

Here are 10 things you should know about the co-existence of bipolar disorder and substance abuse or addiction:

    1. Misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder co-occurring with substance abuse is common. Because cessation of drug and/or alcohol use can trigger symptoms of depression, many physicians miss the signs of bipolar disorder among new patients in detox. Without a current diagnosis, the problem may be missed entirely during addiction treatment unless there is a focus on identifying co-occurring disorders.

    3. Screening and assessment may be the first steps in understanding the origin of symptoms. Proper screening and evaluation can lead to an accurate diagnosis of any co-occurring disorder, including bipolar disorder.

    5. The coexistence of bipolar disorder and addiction in the same patient is not uncommon. Many patients who are living with an active substance abuse problem are also living with a co-occurring mental health disorder – and vice versa. Because mood disorders like bipolar disorder are exceedingly common in the United States, it is not a rare occurrence when a patient presents with bipolar disorder and alcoholism or drug dependence.

    7. There is no known cause for bipolar disorder, addiction or the co-occurrence of both disorders. A combination of genetics, environment, biology and other factors are believed to all play a part in the development of both disorders.

    9. Drug use may “unmask” the signs of bipolar disorder. Often people question whether or not bipolar disorder predates addiction, but in many cases, it may be that use of drugs and alcohol makes the extreme shifts of mood more extreme and therefore more apparent.

    11. Many patients use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Because extreme feelings of depression can be uncomfortable, many bipolar disorder patients drink or get high in order to manage that symptom. Conversely, many bipolar patients enjoy the manic period of their disorder and attempt to extend it by taking stimulant drugs.

    13. When both bipolar disorder and addiction are present, treatment for both disorders is essential. Bipolar disorder and addiction triggers and symptoms are often deeply intertwined, thus treating one disorder without addressing the other is hugely ineffective. Rather, a rehabilitation program that provides intense treatment for both disorders at the same time is advised.

    15. Treatment for bipolar disorder can reduce cravings for drugs or alcohol. When intensive treatment is received for bipolar disorder, cravings for the drug of choice can be significantly reduced; however, other treatment services designed to aid the patient in avoiding relapse are recommended as well.

    17. Medications can be useful in treating co-occurring disorders. There are a number of medications that can be useful in managing detox or limiting cravings depending upon the drug of choice, and there are a number of medications that are useful in managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder. A combination of these may be appropriate in many cases.

    19. Psychotherapeutic interventions can help patients to regroup and move forward. Ongoing therapeutic treatment is recommended for patients struggling with co-occurring disorder. Long-term sobriety is dependent upon ongoing treatment for both issues and sustained growth in therapeutic treatment.

Want more information about bipolar disorder and how it can affect drug and alcohol addiction treatment here at Michael’s House? Contact us today for more information.