Text Size

Bi-polar disorder is a mental health condition that affects approximately 1% of the population, and most commonly emerges during adolescence or young adulthood. Bi-polar disorder is characterized by a continual cycling between states of mania, normalcy and depression; and the lows of the associated depression can be so severe that people with bi-polar disorder are almost 20 times more likely to commit suicide.

Additionally, people suffering with bipolar disorder are 3 to 7 times more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs. People with bi-polar disorders generally abuse alcohol, sleeping pills and stimulants such as cocaine or Meth. Drugs and alcohol are abused to increase the natural high of the mania and as self medication during the depressive episodes. Concurrent use of alcohol or other illicit drugs greatly decreases the effectiveness of the available medications for bi–polar disorder, and can exacerbate the severity of the condition.

Bi-polar disorder can remain untreated for years, as people who abuse drugs or alcohol blame the abused substances for their mood swings; and because bi-polar sufferers so enjoy the high of the manic stage, they often resist treatment of the disorder.

Treatment For Bi-Polar Disorder and Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Because substance abuse both exacerbates the intensity of the symptoms of the disorder, and also reduces the effectiveness of the medications for bi-polar treatment, substance abuse in a bi-polar patient must be accurately diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible opportunity.

The treatment for someone with bi-polar disorder does not differ greatly from standard drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but this treatment must be administered with an awareness of the mental health condition and with appropriate treatment modifications as necessary. The most important first step is to achieve immediate cessation of drug or alcohol abuse, and immediate compliance with prescribed psychiatric medications.

Bi-polar disease can be managed through available psychiatric medications, and when taken as directed, these medications offer very effective symptoms management. When symptoms are controlled through these psychiatric medications, patients will benefit from therapeutic treatment of their substance abuse.

Where to Get Help

There are a number of options available for the treatment of concurrent bi-polar disorder and addiction, and therapeutic options include outpatient substance abuse treatment combined with psychiatric monitoring and prescribed medication, treatment in a rehabilitation center, with an appropriate awareness and modification of treatment for the concurrent disorder; or treatment in a mental health facility, with an appropriate modification to include the treatment of the substance abuse.

The relative severity of the concurrent problems will determine which option is most appropriate. Bi-polar suffers with serious dependencies and controllable symptoms will likely benefit from a rehabilitation center, while those with serious symptoms, and less serious addictions, may require mental health hospitalization.

That treatment occurs at all is of course the most important thing. The longer substance abuse is allowed to compound and exacerbate the symptoms of bi-polar disorder, the more difficult the ultimate treatment will be, and the greater the probability of an unfortunate ending.

Bi-Polar Addictions

The treatment of a bi-polar addiction is complicated but of paramount importance, and family should feel compelled to intervene should they suspect an undiagnosed bi-polar condition, non compliance of prescribed medication regimens, or the abuse of alcohol or drugs with a bi-polar diagnosis.

What Types of Therapy Work?

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy offers the bi-polar patient insight into both their mental health disorder, and how that disorder interacts with their substance abuse to compound the negative symptoms they experience. Therapy will work to educate the bi-polar addict on the consequences of using alcohol or drugs as a form of self medication, and to develop strategies that will empower the bi-polar addict to avoid temptations and triggers to use.

Peer Group Therapy

One of the hallmarks of bi-polar disorder is a reluctance to accept treatment and/or a denial of the existence of the disorder, and as such a peer group session with other bi-polar substance abusers can serve to induce a better self awareness of the condition, and a greater acceptance of the necessary treatments.

Bi-polar substance abuse peer therapy illuminates the behaviors, sensations and emotions common to concurrent addiction and bi-polar disorder; and through peer group sharing, stories and strategies, bi-polar addicts gain strength and awareness from others like themselves, and increase their motivations to live sober, and appropriately medicated.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an important part of any addictions treatment, and is especially crucial to the overall success of any treatment for a bi-polar addict. Behavioral teachings will enable the addict to recognize their cues to abuse, and learn strategies that will help them to avoid these triggers; and will also help them to recognize the behaviors that may indicate a worrisome turn in the symptomology of their bi-polar disorder. Effective cognitive training can help to improve psychiatric medication compliance, reduce the temptations of alcohol or drug abuse, and greatly increase the probability of a stable, sober and happy future.

Family Involvement

The probability of continuing sobriety is increased through ongoing therapy and medication compliance. A family support system, educated in both the disorder and the effects of the concurrent addiction, can prove very beneficial, and can help to ensure continuing therapy and compliance with prescribed medications.

Family should be included in the therapeutic process, should receive education on both addictions and bi-polar disorder, and should learn effective strategies that allow them to assist and support a bi-polar sufferer in substance abuse recovery. Bi-polar sufferers are notoriously poor at self diagnosing their ascension into mania, and the signs that indicate a fall into depression; and as such it can be very beneficial for the bi-polar addict to learn to trust and rely on the judgments of friends and family, on when additional therapeutic intervention may be necessary.

Drug, Alcohol and Bi-Polar Education

Through learning more about the effects and triggers of the disorder, and also the effects of addiction and triggers to abuse, bi-polar addicts are empowered to avoid future dependency, and remain compliant on their psychiatric medications.

Email It Send this page Print It Print friendly page Subscribe Subscribe to this topic category

Page last updated Sep 28, 2015

Creative Commons License
Copyright Notice
We welcome republishing of our content on condition that you credit Choose Help and the respective authors. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Join Thousands of Readers

who receive our weekly recovery newsletter.

Helpful Reading
You’re Not Crazy, You’re in Recovery
Dual Diagnosis: The Problem with Diagnosing Mental Illness in Early Recovery © Thomas Hawk
Early recovery from addiction involves countless changes in perception, behavior, and self regulation. Diagnosing people who are less than six months sober is extremely problematic and should be avoided whenever possible. Diagnoses are labels that too often become prophecies. Read Article
Addiction Treatment March 11, 2013 (5)
Antidepressants + Alcohol: SSRIs in Treatment?
Antidepressants and Alcohol – A Guide to SSRIs in Addiction Treatment © PublicDomainPictures
Should you take an antidepressant during early recovery - or while still drinking/using? Does your substance abuse cause your depression or is it the other way around? Read on for an overview of your options and for more information on when SSRIs will help, and when they won’t. Read Article
Drug Treatment October 16, 2014 (1)
Co-Occurring Disorders – A Treatment Matching Guide
The 4 Quadrant Model – a Co-Occurring Treatment Framework © SAMHSA
The 4 quadrant model provides a framework to help you understand what types of co-occurring disorder treatment you need most. Read Article
Co-Occurring Disorders October 31, 2013
Find Help In...
Like Our Site? Follow Us!

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.