Characterized by severe mood swings, bipolar disorder can oftentimes require specialized medication and care for treatment. Unfortunately, some patients believe that the medications are not suited to their needs or simply choose not to take them. These individuals sometimes rely on self-medication through drug and alcohol use, which can result in addiction. Understanding the reasoning behind substance abuse, the moods and the treatments offered can provide insight into both the addiction and disorder as a whole.
Depression and Mania
In order to understand the correlation between bipolar and addiction, we must first educate ourselves in regard to the moods. Depression is the mood where patients show an extreme disinterest in life, a discontinuation of typically exciting and fun activities and a heightened interested in suicide. In some cases the depression can be triggered once a patient is informed of their actions during a manic episode. The same patients can also suffer from mania, which includes heightened energy levels alongside the desire to participate in high-energy activities – exercise, frivolous spending and hyper-sexuality to name a few. Manic individuals will also immerse themselves within a variety of projects with the intent of completing each one, despite a lack of dedication and unrealistic deadlines.
When a bipolar patient dabbles in substance abuse, it is considered dual diagnosis. Substance abuse in bipolar individuals may occur during both the depression and manic phases. Some suffering from the disorder refuse to take prescription medication due to a fear of side effects and instead choose to self-medicate through alcohol or drug use. Others cater to the belief that the medications simply aren’t doing enough to alter their state of mind. For depressed patients, stimulants are often the drug of choice due to the energy and positive emotional effects. Patients in a manic state often resort to alcohol due to its depressive qualities. Unfortunately, self-medication will ultimately lead to addiction, providing patients with yet another condition to combat.
Addiction treatment is the first step in addressing dual diagnosis. Many patients often require a mood stabilizer in order to keep the depression and mania at bay. However, most of the mood stabilizers used in mental health recovery do not interact well with illicit drugs or alcohol. Once the addiction can be managed through detox and counseling, doctors can begin administering treatment for bipolar disorder.
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