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Bipolar and Drug Use: Everything You Need to Know

a person sits on the floor with their arms around their legs learning about Bipolar and drug use

Addiction and mental health disorders commonly exist together. There is a profound interplay between substance abuse and mental health issues. One common pairing is bipolar disorder and drug use. Having bipolar disorder does not guarantee that someone will struggle with substance abuse, nor is the inverse necessarily true. Yet a correlation between bipolar and drug use does exist. A bipolar diagnosis puts people at greater risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. In addition, some substances can leave people more predisposed to developing bipolar disorder.

Reach out to 855.732.4842 to learn about substance abuse programs and bipolar dual diagnosis treatment at Rockland Recovery.

The Basics of Bipolar Disorder

To understand the interplay of bipolar disorder and drug use, it is worth unpacking the details about what bipolar disorder is. Radical mood swings marked by long periods in the same mood are the most significant indicator of someone who struggles with bipolar disorder. These moods typically fall into two categories: depression and mania. How long someone experiences an episode in either mood varies by individual, but there are certain diagnostic lengths.

The episodes someone with bipolar might experience are as follows:

  • Mania involves being exceedingly energetic, euphoric, or hostile
  • Hypomania is similar to manic but is generally shorter-lived and less intense
  • Major depressive episodes are periods of extreme depression
  • Mixed episodes, which are a more sporadic combination of the previous three types of episodes

Experiencing one or more types of episodes characterizes bipolar as a whole. However, bipolar disorders are categorized into bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. The first one is more severe and tends to be marked by manic episodes followed by major depressive episodes. Bipolar II, on the other hand, is characterized by major depressive episodes followed by hypomanic episodes. The swings are less intense between moods in bipolar II and generally are more depressive than manic. Cyclothymia is a less severe mood disorder that can still profoundly affect your day-to-day functioning.

Bipolar Disorder and Drug Use

Bipolar disorder and drug use are connected in multiple ways. Drug use influences brain chemistry. Prolonged drug use fundamentally changes the way the brain operates. In particular, brain areas governing mood and behavior change over time in response to drug abuse. This drug use can ultimately lead to the development of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder and drug use share one other significant connection: symptoms. The side effects of bipolar disorder and drug use can overlap. For example, how someone acts during a manic episode strongly resembles how people act when using cocaine. As well, experiencing a major depressive episode can resemble withdrawal from certain drugs.

Again, it is essential to remember that the correlation between bipolar disorder and drug use is not one-to-one. Yet these overlaps require a comprehensive level of care through what is called a dual diagnosis treatment approach.

Addressing the Correlation Between Bipolar Disorder and Drug Use With Rockland Recovery

So how do addiction treatment providers handle bipolar disorder and drug use disorder simultaneously? The answer is to implement a dual diagnosis approach to treatment. The dual diagnosis framework treats both bipolar disorder and drug use at the same time. That may seem apparent initially, but this method upends decades of practice that relied on sequential treatment. Sequential treatment believed each disorder must be dealt with independently, one after the other. Dual diagnosis addresses both together.

Treating bipolar disorder and drug use involves medication, therapy, support groups, and other holistic services. Medications like antipsychotics or lithium can help people achieve relief from their bipolar symptoms. One of the foremost therapies for treating these conditions is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which promotes behavior change. Medications and therapy form the foundation for recovery from these complex disorders.

Healing is possible and help is available. Contact 855.732.4842 to learn more about treating bipolar disorder and drug use.

Medical Reviewer Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Medically Reviewed by Kate Perfetti, LADC II

Kate is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked in the field of substance abuse for the last nine years. At Rockland Recovery, Kate works to provide resources to the local community and engage and progress Rockland Recovery’s alumni program.


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