Substance-Induced Bipolar Disorder

Substance-Induced Bipolar DisorderBipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental disorder that causes people to experience extreme shifts in mood, energy and behavior. Bipolar disorder causes chemical imbalances in the brain that trigger these intense shifts. Many people who live with bipolar disorder struggle to maintain healthy relationships or financial stability. Long episodes of depression interrupted by episodes of mania, a state of easy excitability and unpredictable behavior, mark a common pattern for many people who suffer from bipolar disorder.

A startling number of people with bipolar disorder turn to substance abuse to temporarily ease their symptoms, only to exacerbate them in the long term. Substance abuse and bipolar disorder are so closely linked that substance abuse can cause the manifestation of the symptoms of bipolar disorder in someone who has not previously exhibited them.

How Substances Affect Brain Chemistry

The reason why substance abuse causes so much obvious destruction in a person’s life is that it affects not only the body but the brain as well. Substance abuse causes serious and often permanent psychological changes. Once addiction develops, getting sober is not a matter of willpower but of getting the proper psychological and medical care.

Substance-induced disorders are different from independent mood disorders in that their symptoms occur as a direct result of substance abuse. If an individual has no preexisting mood disorder and experiences mood disturbances that developed during or within a month after intoxication or withdrawal, it is likely that he is suffering from a substance-induced mood disorder. The symptoms of substance-induced bipolar disorder could be prompted by use of the following drugs:

  • Cocaine and amphetamines – Abusing central nervous systems (CNS) stimulants can lead to impulsive and dangerous behavior, increased energy and euphoria. After intoxication, users often crash and experience depression. Amphetamine use followed by longer episodes of sobriety or use of another drug such as alcohol closely mimic the up-and-down pattern of bipolar disorder.
  • Opiates – Opiates cause a sense of calm and euphoria, changing the way the brain perceives pleasure and pain. Opiate use can cause side effects that resemble the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • Sedatives – Like opiates, sedatives depress the central nervous system and cause the user to feel fatigued. The symptoms of tranquilizer abuse mimic the depressive phases of bipolar disorder, characterized by depression, subdued behavior and unwillingness to participate in activities or handle responsibilities.
  • Alcohol – Mood instability, poor impulse control, aggressive behavior and agitation are just a few of the symptoms associated with alcohol abuse and withdrawal. These symptoms are similar to the manic phases of bipolar disorder.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it is important you seek professional treatment.

Treatment for Substance-Induced Bipolar Disorder

While some of the effects of substance-induced bipolar disorder dissipate with medical and psychological treatment of the addiction, certain effects are not entirely reversible even if the individual achieves sobriety. Prolonged use of these substances can cause long-term changes in the brain that may take weeks, months or years to overcome.

Substance abuse treatment programs can screen for co-occurring mental disorders in order to make sure that the bipolar disorder is substance-induced. If it is substance-induced, medical and psychological treatment for addiction followed by abstinence and continuing recovery can resolve many of the issues associated with substance-induced bipolar disorder.

Help for Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or symptoms of a substance-induced mood disorder, please call our toll-free helpline to speak with an admissions coordinator about your treatment options. We are available 24 hours a day to help you get the professional treatment you deserve. Please call today.