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Bipolar Disorder And Addiction

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a person receives bipolar disorder and addiction treatmentExperts suggest that substance use disorders are more prevalent among those with bipolar disorder than with any other diagnosis. Unfortunately, in the long run, this condition can make bipolar disorder problems worse. Substance addiction and use can fall under the definition of substance use disorders. A substance use disorder (SUD) occurs when a person’s use of alcohol or another drug causes significant clinical and functional impairment. A person suffering from SUD often experiences health problems (mental and physical) and may have difficulty at work, school, or home due to their substance use.

Unfortunately, a person with bipolar disorder may attempt to self-medicate their symptoms with alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs. However, those who try to self-medicate the symptoms of bipolar disorder are at a high risk of co-occurring substance use disorder. If you’re suffering from an addiction and bipolar disorder, we can help. Contact Vertava Health today at 844.470.0410 to learn more.

What Addictions Most Commonly Occur with Bipolar Disorder?

Drugs commonly associated with bipolar disorder include:

  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Opioids
  • Antidepressants

Most drugs are not solely responsible for bipolar disorder, but they may contribute to the symptoms. When a person suffers from a coexisting mental and substance use disorder, experts say that they have a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. Alcohol and other drugs can worsen the symptoms of a mental disorder, and even a person with no history of any mental illness can develop bipolar disorder. 

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, activity, energy, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Episodes range from extreme highs to severe lows. A high mood, which often includes elation and energetic behavior, is a manic episode. A low mood, which includes sadness and hopelessness, is a major depressive episode.

There are four types of bipolar disorder, all of which involve changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. The four types of bipolar disorder include:

  • Bipolar I Disorder — This condition is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days or by symptoms that require immediate clinical care. Depressive episodes generally last up to 14 days. Some individuals experience manic and depressive episodes at the same time.
  • Bipolar II Disorder  — This form of bipolar disorder involves a pattern of hypomanic and depressive episodes that are not as extreme as Bipolar Disorder I.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder  — This condition is defined by numerous periods of elevated mood and numerous periods of low mood lasting at least two years. These symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for manic or depressive episodes.
  • Specific and Unspecific Bipolar Disorder — This condition is defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the other three types of bipolar disorder.

Not everybody who has bipolar disorder will experience all of the symptoms. A person with bipolar disorder may use alcohol or another drug, have relationship problems, or have problems meeting requirements at work, school, or home.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

A person who has bipolar disorder will experience major shifts in mood, emotions, sleep patterns, and behavior. The highs and lows of bipolar disorder are known as mood shifts, including manic, depressive, or mixed episodes. Manic-depressive episodes aren’t necessarily caused by drug use, making diagnosing a co-occurring disorder difficult.

Symptoms of Manic Episode

  • Feeling of elation
  • Excessive energy (hyperactivity)
  • Increased activity levels
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Talking fast
  • Inability to stay focused
  • Irritability

Symptoms of Depressive Episode

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Minimal energy
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feelings of discontent
  • Constant worry and emptiness
  • Shifts in diet or weight

Mixed Episodes

An individual may experience symptoms of both manic and depressive episodes, known as an episode with mixed features. A person may feel very low and hopeless but extremely energetic at the same time. A person suffering from cocaine use may experience the euphoria elicited by cocaine but still feel severely depressed at the same time.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can help ensure that a person gets the treatment they need.

Bipolar Disorder Causes and Risk Factors

There is no single cause of bipolar disorders or substance use disorders. Many risk factors contribute to bipolar disorder.

Brain Structure and Functioning

A person with bipolar disorder may have a different brain structure from someone without bipolar disorder. The brain abnormalities of bipolar disorder generally occur in the prefrontal cortex. This brain deformity may be responsible for the mood shifts that people with bipolar disorder experience.


Researchers have found that people with specific genes are more likely to develop bipolar disorder. Genes, however, are not the only risk factor for bipolar disorder. Although one identical twin may develop bipolar disorder, some studies have found that the other twin doesn’t always develop the same disorder. 

Family History

Bipolar disorder, like substance use disorder, tends to run in the family. Children or siblings of a person with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the same disorder, yet most people with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness.

How to Test for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in a person with addiction isn’t always easy. Professionals use the following tests to determine whether a person has bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, or both.

  • Psychological tests
  • Physical exams
  • Mood charts
  • Making comparisons

In order to accurately test for bipolar disorder, a professional considers each of an individual’s symptoms, including their length, frequency, and severity. Bipolar disorder symptoms may differ from one person to the next. The manic and depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder often mirror those of drug addiction.

Most trained professionals are able to tell the difference between mood and substance use disorders. Yet it isn’t always easy to distinguish between bipolar disorder and addiction. Knowing if an individual suffers from a co-occurring disorder is vital to finding the right treatment plan.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

A physician may incorporate a medication-assisted treatment to help calm an individual’s mood shifts, allowing them to be more responsive to behavioral therapy. Bipolar disorder medications include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Lithium
  • Antipsychotics

Mixing medications with alcohol or other drugs can be fatal. Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming, so physicians are slow to prescribe them to people with a history of substance use.

Behavioral treatment may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help an individual overcome co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction. Behavioral treatments for bipolar disorder help patients understand and address negative thoughts and feelings that may be contributing to their addiction. Treating a co-occurring disorder isn’t always easy, but it’s most effective when both mood and substance use disorders are treated at the same time.

Seek Treatment at Vertava Health Today

Vertava Health is here to help you or your loved one on the road to recovery. Our addiction treatment centers offer evidence-based treatment for co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction. With a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, we customize our care plans to meet the unique needs of each individual. We treat a range of co-occurring substance use disorders, including:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Cocaine addiction
  • Heroin addiction
  • Marijuana addiction
  • Prescription drug addiction

Vertava Health’s treatment centers are located across the country, offering inpatient and outpatient care. Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you get started on the path to recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction, call us today at 844.470.0410 to learn more today.