Drug Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

Teenagers with Bipolar Disorder often use drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication. So, while drug abuse is common among teenagers, some teens may have pre-existing mood disorders that can make matters worse. Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic changes mood swings over hours, days, or weeks. Sufferers can feel depressed and then swing to an expansive and grandiose mood out of nowhere. It’s what the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders calls a manic or hypomanic episode. On both sides of the spectrum teens are at risk to use drugs or alcohol.

Drug use is an attempt at self-treatment for many Bipolar sufferers. When they are depressed, marijuana can help them not think about their extreme pain. Cocaine and Amphetamines such as Adderall can give them a jolt. Alcohol is a numbing agent to the angst that is their life. When they are high, marijuana can slow everything down.

When a teen is manic, his judgment is poor. The moment, right now, is all that counts. The drug that is in front of him is the drug he’ll generally use. Bipolar teenagers abuse just about everything: LSD, ecstasy, heroin, mushrooms, PCP, marijuana, cocaine, meth, Oxycontin and others. On a college campus teens sometimes crush and snort Adderall.

This combination of Bipolar Disorder and drug use is one of the toughest treatment cases that psychiatrists have to deal with. It’s virtually impossible to treat a bipolar case when they’re abusing drugs. The client must first get sober from drugs and alcohol. This is because the drugs either exacerbate the disorder or cover it up. Bipolar Disorder is treatable; and it’s not uncommon to have good success in treating these cases when the client has agreed to drop their drug of choice. Then the process becomes giving them the standard treatment for Bipolar Disorder medication to stabilize their moods and psychotherapy to help them understand and prevent future manic episodes. Also, lifestyle changes that  provide ways to balance the body; including diet, exercise, sleep, socializing, support groups, therapy and spirituality.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous