The Vicious Cycle: Booze, Drugs and Bipolar Disorder
Posted Feb 15 2013 9:07am
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by a cycle of moods from one extreme to the other. Bipolar patients suffer from depression on the low end of the mood spectrum, and mania on the high end. When people with bipolar disorder are depressed, they often feel helpless, lethargic, unmotivated, anxious, and not interested in things that normally interest them. When bipolar patients are manic, they often feel creative, highly energetic, invincible, and often they can be highly agitated and can run into trouble with compulsive and destructive behavior. There are several levels of moods that lie in between depression and mania, including a “normal” mood and hypomania . Hypomania is a lesser version of mania, characterized by high energy and creativity, but less destructive behavior.
Bipolar disorder, in general, is not fun. It does not feel good much of the time, causing many, if not most bipolar patients to gain relief through alcohol and drug abuse . This act of seeking relief through drugs and alcohol use is also known as self-medication. Many people with bipolar disorder feel so terrible that they seek to feel better, or to mask their symptoms, through substance abuse. In many cases, patients attempt to mimic hypomania, which feels like a high-energy and happy buzz, through the use of drugs and alcohol
Some reports suggest that up to 70 percent of all bipolar patients also abuse drugs and/or alcohol. In a 2004 study, 41 percent of alcohol abusers and 61 percent of drug abusers were reported to also have a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder. The link is so striking that many experts are now calling for drug and alcohol addiction screenings for all bipolar patients. Alcohol use is the most prevalent substance abuse among bipolar patients, but many bipolar patients also use cocaine, opioids, methamphetamines, and marijuana, many times in combination with alcohol. The highest rate of substance abuse appears to be most common among those with mixed states or rapid cycling bipolar. While the drugs and alcohol may make a person feel better in the short term, he or she will often feel worse later and may even suffer a very serious manic state or deep depression, often with psychotic symptoms. Bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol use is just that: A vicious cycle. The fluctuation of moods that a person with bipolar disorder experiences is hard enough. If you add substance abuse into the mix, you’re compounding the issue even further.