Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health disorder, one that is defined by extreme mood swings. Those who live with bipolar disorder often fight madly to escape the deep depressive episodes they experience – and strive just as hard to achieve and maintain the ebullient manic episodes that also characterize the disorder.
Many bipolar patients report that they feel exuberant, creative and undefeatable when they experience manic periods, and some even stop taking medication that helps them balance their moods in favor of experiencing these highs even though they come with extreme lows as well.
It’s also not uncommon for a bipolar disorder patient to seek to achieve these feelings of mania through artificial means, taking stimulant drugs like cocaine, crack and crystal meth that provide similar feelings, like:
- Extra energy
- Increased sociability
- Intense focus
- Feelings of empowerment
Unfortunately, the result is usually a dependence upon the stimulant as well as a change to the drugs’ effects. After taking the drug chronically, rather than feeling happy while under the influence, patients report that they instead feel surly and paranoid while high.
Additionally, when the depressive periods inevitably strike, they are stronger and longer lasting. Many patients even report feeling suicidal due to the combination of crashing after a cocaine or prescription stimulant binge and the bipolar disorder.
So how can you address the problem proactively when your loved one struggles with bipolar disorder as well as addiction?
The Drug Abuse Problem
It may seem intuitive to address the drug addiction first and then focus on treating the bipolar disorder. Many families assume that because the symptoms of bipolar disorder were often the primary issue that the addiction issue is just another problematic symptom.
Common Drugs of Abuse Among Bipolar Patients
- Prescription stimulant drugs (e.g., Adderall)
- Crystal meth
While this may be true, the cravings for drugs and alcohol are often deeply connected to the bipolar symptoms. That is, when a patient begins to shift into a depressed mood, they start to crave cocaine or stimulant prescription drugs like Adderall.
If the addiction is not treated simultaneously, then when the patient begins to experience a depressive episode, she will find it almost impossible to avoid getting high. The continued use of drugs and alcohol will demolish any ability to progress in bipolar disorder treatment.
In the same way, untreated bipolar disorder symptoms will sabotage attempts to treat drug addiction. The answer is treatment that is in-depth enough to address both problems at the same time.
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Staging an Intervention for Your Loved One
Families with a loved one diagnosed with a significant mental health disorder like bipolar disorder as well as an addiction are uniquely challenged when it comes time to help them get treatment. Many patients do not want to stop using drugs, and some don’t want to treat their bipolar symptoms either. Because the manic periods are enjoyable for a number of patients, they’d rather suffer through the bad to experience the good as opposed to balancing out their emotions and removing the extremes on both ends.
This can make it challenging for families who have a more objective view of the harm that the addicted person is inflicting on herself. In many cases, it is necessary to stage a formal intervention for the addicted person in order to make it clear that treatment will help her to regain control over her life and that if she does not agree to get help, the family will no longer enable her.
You can get the help you need to stage an effective intervention for your loved one today. Call 844-675-1221 now and find out how we can assist you.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton