Current Psychiatry Online (August 2010) has an excellent article by Bryan K. Tolliver, MD, PhD entitled “Bipolar disorder and substance abuse: Overcome the challenges of ‘dual diagnosis’ patients.” If you are interested in exploring the connection between bipolar disorder and substance abuse, I encourage you to read the article.
Tolliver includes a table in his article (Table 1) designed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most common theories of why substance abuse so often accompanies bipolar disorder. One of the most common theories he examines is that substance abuse arises from attempts to self-medicate – to treat the symptoms the individual is experiencing. Tolliver points out three facts that challenge this belief:
I watched an episode of Intervention last night. The woman involved in the intervention, Marci, was heavy into alcohol and drugs, including smoking crystal meth. Prior to the intervention, she had lost her home, her marriage, and custody of her children. By the end of the show, she agreed to treatment, was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, received effective treatment, and experienced a complete turnaround.