Understanding the Connection Between Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Understanding the Connection Between Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Drug Addiction, Substance Abuse & Bipolar Disorder are a very common Trio

I think at one time or another, we have all experienced feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, guilt and irritability. I think we could all agree that we also have had times that we experienced euphoria, poor judgment, and racing thoughts, had problems with concentration and been agitated or irritated. Just through life’s ups and downs, we can all relate to mood-swings and depression.

For many people though, they live these feelings on a daily basis. They experience serious ups and downs throughout their whole lives. They go through long periods of feeling sad, worried and empty. These depressive episodes are followed by periods of feeling restless, overly-happy, extremely irritable and sometimes behave impulsively with risky behavior. Understandably, these types of mood episodes would be hard for anyone to live with on a daily basis.

There are so many people in this world that abuse substances and are addicted to drugs that suffer from very serious mental disorders. This is not to say they’re crazy, this simply means that due to abnormal brain function and decreased levels of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain many people struggle with severe depression, anxiety and other mental problems. Medical professionals and Drug Treatment Centers refer to this as co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.

When the drug addict needs help for their addiction, both the drug of addiction needs to be addressed as well as the mental problems such as chronic depression or bipolar disorder. You can’t treat one without the other if you’re looking for a successful outcome. An individual with a mental illness should never feel ashamed or less of a person either, chemical imbalances in the brain and hormone imbalances throughout the body is more common than you think.

In 2002, there were about 4.0 million adults that met the criteria for both serious mental illness and drug addiction. Substance abuse and bipolar disorder goes hand in hand most of the time. Especially for individuals that haven’t been diagnosed with this disorder. Many people try self-medicating themselves without even realizing it.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a continuous and compulsive emotional and physical need for a substance or drug. Abusing drugs or substances over time changes the way the brain works and functions and makes it extremely difficult for an individual to stop abusing drugs, alcohol or any addicting substance. Very intense impulses are sent throughout the body in need of the drug or substance that has been abused.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is also referred to as manic-depressive illness. It’s a brain disorder that develops in an individual in their late teens or in the early years of adult-hood. Over half of the time, this starts before the person is 25 years old. Bipolar symptoms can show during a person’s childhood and others may show symptoms later in life. It can be very hard at times to detect in a person. For some people, it takes many years before they’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder and others are never diagnosed. These individuals go through life feeling miserable emotionally and physically. Good relationships are hard to make let alone keep, sadness, irritability, fatigue and sleep problems affects school or work and many choose risky behavior such as drug abuse in order to make them self-feel better.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Individuals that suffer from Bipolar Disorder go through extreme emotional episodes. These mood episodes include and overly cheerful and joyous state and a sad, depressive, hopeless state. These two opposite emotional states are very distinct. The extremely happy and cheerful state is referred to as a ‘manic episode’. The sad, depressive and hopeless state is referred to as a ‘depressive state’. There are times when an individual will experience both mood episodes (mania & depression); this is referred to as a ‘mixed state’.

Symptoms to look for that are considered manic or mania include

  1. Mood: Long periods of feeling ‘high’, mood is very outgoing or overly happy
  2. Mood: Very irritable mood, agitation, feeling wired or jumpy

Behavioral Changes

  1. Racing thoughts, bouncing from one thought or idea to another, talking very fast
  2. Distracted very easily
  3. Increasing goal-activities like taking on new projects
  4. Restless, staying awake longer, sleeping very little
  5. Unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  6. Demonstrating impulsive behavior, high-risk behavior like spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments

Symptoms of depression episodes include

  1. Mood: long periods of feeling empty inside and worried
  2. Mood: experiencing loss of interest in the activities you one enjoyed including sex

Behavioral Changes

  1. Feeling tired and run down
  2. Experiencing problems with concentration, remembering things and problems making decisions
  3. Feeling restless or irritable
  4. Eating habits change, sleeping changes along with other habits
  5. Thoughts of death, suicide, or attempting suicide

Symptoms of ‘mixed state’ include:
During this type of state, the symptoms very often include agitation, trouble sleeping, severe changes in appetite and suicidal thinking. At the same time, they feel sad and hopeless while feeling very energized.


How does Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder relate to each other?

Substance abuse is extremely common among individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder. Around 60 percent of the people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder abuse substances sometime during their life time. New studies now show that addiction and Bipolar Disorder may share the same genetic -roots.

Bipolar disorder runs in families and drug addiction does as well. Through extensive research, it has been found that there are 69 very common bipolar vulnerable genes and that those who suffer from substance abuse share 23 of the same genes. It’s not surprising that many of the individuals that suffer from drug addiction also suffer from bipolar disorder. This is referred to as Co-occurring Disorder or Duel Diagnosis by the medical profession.

Many times teens and young people that are suffering from Bipolar symptoms but haven’t been medically diagnosed tend to experiment with mood altering drugs that elevate their moods and cause euphoric highs. Quite often young people and adults take drugs to alleviate their depression symptoms and self-medicate them self. Alcohol and marijuana are both abused by many people who self-medicate themselves due to depression. It is very important that those suffering from substance abuse and drug addiction get the correct diagnosis and treatment because drug abuse and addiction can cause mental disorders also. Pro-longed abuse to Ecstasy for example can lead to depression and anxiety disorders because it decreases the serotonin function in the brain. This is especially critical and dangerous to children and adolescents because it interferes with their cognitive development and contributes to the child developing mental disorders.

For those suffering from a mental illness, bipolar disorder, chronic depression, severe anxiety or any other mental disorder remember this; you are not alone, you may not have caused it, and it doesn’t have to continue. There is professional help and Treatment available for anyone suffering from any of these medical conditions. Abusing substances or drugs that elevate your mood eventually decreases your natural serotonin level which ends up making emotional disorders like bipolar disorder much-much worse.

For anyone suffering from Drug addiction along with mental disorders (duel diagnosis or co-occurring disorder) things will only get worse as time goes on. There is excellent professional help today for anyone dealing with drug addiction and emotional disorders. Finding the right Drug Treatment Center that understands your fears, needs, and what you’re going through is much easier today than it ever was before. Don’t give up on yourself or life, call 1-800-559-9503 today for professional guidance and help.

Websites used in this article
NIDA Addiction Research
NIDA Bipolar Disorder
Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

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