drug induced bipolar disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder, namely the extreme mood swings that characterize the mood disorder, can actually be induced by certain drugs or alcohol. While bipolar disorder remains a mysterious mental illness, as science has not definitively agreed as to the cause of its onset, substances are thought to play a role. It is still not clear if the substances provoke the mental health disorder itself, or just the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder.

Drug induced bipolar disorder reflects the relationship between certain substances and how they impact brain chemistry. In some instances, stopping a prescription medication may spark mania and depressive episodes, as the brain attempts to stabilize one the drug is suspended. Whether the cause of the mood swings is bipolar disorder itself or the effects of a substance causing the mood swings, learning how to manage the symptoms is critical.

Which Drugs Induce Bipolar Disorder Symptoms?

Some substances can cause the symptoms of a mood disorder. These may actually be prescription medications to which the individual has a reaction, causing adverse side effects that mimic bipolar disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse can also induce bipolar symptoms. Examples of substances that can cause drug induced bipolar disorder symptoms:

  • Alcohol
  • Hallucinogenics, such as LSD, PCP, psychedelic mushrooms
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • Heart medications
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Prescription pain relievers
  • Decongestants

Sometimes mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants can cause mood swings or other adverse psychological effects. In fact, there is evidence that some antidepressants increase the risk of rapid mood changes. An individual may find they develop more intense mania when they begin on antidepressant drug therapy. In one study, it was found that 46 of the 85 participants that were responsive to antidepressant therapy, or more than half, experienced treatment-emergent mania or hypomania during the trial.

Which Occurs First, the Substance Abuse or the Bipolar Disorder?

Individuals who struggle with undiagnosed bipolar disorder may turn to a substance to self-medicate the unwelcome and disruptive symptoms. Alcohol use disorder commonly coexists with bipolar disorder, termed a dual diagnosis. Marijuana is another often-utilized substance to help alleviate the symptoms.

Individuals may have developed a substance use disorder than then led to the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Of the various mental health disorders, individuals with bipolar disorder have the highest rates of co-occurring substance use disorders. There is some evidence that regular marijuana use can instigate the symptoms of bipolar disorder, for example. It is believed that early marijuana use during adolescence, during a period when the brain is still developing, may increase the risk of acquiring bipolar disorder.

About Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder afflicts about 2.6% of the adult population in the U.S. Among those diagnosed, 82% are classified as severe. Bipolar disorder is a complex and chronic mental illness that can disrupt all aspects of functioning if not managed. Possible factors associated with developing bipolar disorder may be genetics, brain chemistry imbalance, trauma, hormonal imbalance, and substance abuse.

People with undiagnosed bipolar disorder will find its symptoms disruptive to all areas of their life. The extreme mood swings will not only impact career, relationships, and psychological wellbeing, but can also affect anyone closely associated with the individual. The destabilizing effects of bipolar can result in family financial problems, incomplete work projects that affect coworkers, and dangerous behavior that can result in injury to others.

Diagnosis of the disorder will begin the process of treating these disruptive symptoms and thereby improve daily functioning. Managing the bipolar disorder will involve ongoing therapy, emotion regulation, medication, and improved sleep quality. By adhering to the treatment plan, and continuing to work on psychosocial coping skills, individuals with bipolar disorder are able to live a productive, fulfilling life.

The disorder features unpredictable and intense mood swings, with depressive episodes usually predominant. Symptoms include:

Manic episode:

  • Elated, euphoric mood
  • Abundance of energy
  • Increased activity levels
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid speech
  • Irritability
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Racing thoughts
  • Engage in high-risk behaviors
  • Take on multiple tasks at once

Depressive episode:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty
  • Very low energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Decreased activity level
  • Forgetful
  • Overeating or not eating enough
  • Excessive worry
  • Lack of joy or pleasure
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Thoughts of suicide

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are four different types of bipolar disorder that share the basic feature of unusual mood swings. These vary in terms of which mood is predominant, the depressive episodes or the manic episodes. These types of bipolar disorder include:

Bipolar I Disorder.  Bipolar I is the most severe form of the disorder, defined by manic episodes that last for at least seven days or with manic symptoms so severe that sometimes emergency hospital care is necessary. The depressive episodes can last two weeks or more, but mania is more prevalent.

Bipolar II Disorder.  Bipolar II is defined by a pattern of manic and depressive episodes, but not to the degree or severity of Bipolar I. With bipolar II, the individual experiences hypomania versus mania. Hypomania is less severe. Also, depressive episodes are more prevalent in bipolar II.

Cyclothymic Disorder.  Cyclothymic Disorder, or cyclothymia, is defined by repeated periods of manic symptoms and depressive symptoms lasting at least two years.  However, the symptoms do not reach the diagnostic criteria for manic or depressive episodes.

Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar Disorders.  This category includes bipolar disorder symptoms that do not fit into the above categories.

Treatment for Drug Induced Bipolar Disorder

The primary methods of treating bipolar disorder are with the use of prescription medications and targeted psychotherapy. Medications have different effects on different individuals, so it often takes some trialing before the right medication is discovered to effectively help stabilize the patient. If the individual is already taking medications, these will be reviewed to determine if they may be contributing to the symptoms of bipolar disorder. 

Psychotherapy is a central treatment element for bipolar disorder. Some of the psychotherapies used for bipolar disorder include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT employs strategies for helping individuals change their unhealthy patterns of thinking, such as role-playing techniques and learning how to delay triggering effects through relaxation and positive self-talk.
  • Family-focused therapy. Family members are taught better communication skills and other psycho-education techniques that can improve family dynamics. Also, family therapy can help the family learn how to recognize the signs of an impending depressive or manic episode.
  • Group therapy. Support groups provide a supportive venue for individuals who share a common mental health challenge to share and gain peer support.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy.  IPSRT helps the individual to learn how to better predict and manage the bipolar episodes. This therapy focuses on the importance of a consistent daily routine, in addition to improving interpersonal relations and stress management.
  • Case management. Individuals are encouraged to access outside resources and social support following treatment. These resources can provide useful assistance in daily functioning and healthy social interactions. These services can be coordinated through a case manager.

If there is a co-occurring substance use disorder, the dual diagnosis treatment plan will focus on treating both the addiction and the mental health disorder at the same time. Addiction treatment involves:

  • Medical detox. When the individual’s substance use has evolved into an addiction or dependence they will first need to undergo a medical detox and withdrawal. A trained detox professional will guide the individual through the detox process while providing medical interventions as needed.
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a core treatment element for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and motivation enhancement therapy are commonly utilized.
  • Relapse prevention strategies. Each client will design their personal relapse prevention plan after identifying specific triggers, such as situations, people, or places that trigger cravings or substance use. Their relapse prevention plans will attach actionable steps to help deflect a relapse.
  • 12-step programming. Addiction recovery groups, such as A.A., N.NA. or SMART Recovery are often integrated into the treatment plan.
  • Medication-assisted treatment. MAT is helpful for individuals recovering from opioid or heroin addiction or alcoholism. The medical support is carefully monitored and ongoing outpatient therapy is required. The drugs, such as naltrexone, buprenorphine, or methadone, can be helpful in stabilizing someone in early recovery, therefore reducing the risk of relapse.

Dual diagnosis programs often provide a menu of experiential and holistic therapies that aid in the healing of severe bipolar disorder symptoms while promoting overall wellness.  These activities might include massage therapy, yoga, mindfulness exercises, guided meditation, acupuncture, therapeutic gardening, and art therapy. These complementary activities help the individual to better regulate emotions and teach them important relaxation skills that are an important recovery skill.

Fortunately, bipolar disorder can be effectively managed through medication, psychotherapy, and psycho-education interventions, allowing the individual to enjoy a full and satisfying life.

Solutions 4 Recovery Dual Diagnosis Treatment Orange County

Solutions 4 Recovery offers specialized inpatient dual diagnosis treatment for individuals struggling with drug induced bipolar disorder. The clinical staff is extensively trained in effectively integrating multi-modal treatment elements specifically for the dual diagnosis client who is struggling with bipolar disorder. At Solutions 4 Recovery the mental health issues a client may be struggling with are treated at the same time as the substance use disorder for the best recovery outcome, and treatment plans are highly individualized. Solutions 4 Recovery also provides supportive outpatient care following the completion of the dual diagnosis inpatient program. For more information about our evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment program, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874.