Individuals living with bipolar disorder have an increased risk of abusing drugs and alcohol, especially those who experience extreme shifts in mood. However, bipolar disorder isn’t just about mood swings - it dramatically affects a person’s emotional state, cognitive functioning, judgement, and behavior. A person experiencing extreme fluctuations in mood and energy levels is more willing to take anything to get rid of their discomfort. According to The National Alliance on Mental Health, 56 percent of people with bipolar disorder have a history of illicit drug abuse, while 44 percent have abused or are dependent on alcohol. The combination of severe bipolar disorder and addiction increases the risk of negative and unhealthy outcomes.



Because individuals with bipolar disorder already experience mood and emotional instability, substance abuse intensifies manic extremes rather than help regulate them. It can also extend longer episodes of instability as well as increase suicidal attempts. So on top of experiencing intensified symptoms, users also experience drug side effects as well. People are drawn to drugs and alcohol as quick fixes to self medicate, but it’s actually counterproductive.



Some depressive and manic symptoms at risk for worsening or intensifying when combined with substance abuse are:



  • Low self-esteem, feelings of low self-worth, stronger insecurities

  • A sense of hopelessness and despair

  • Physical, emotional, and mental fatigue and low energy

  • Change in appetite, either loss of appetite or more hungry

  • Trouble sleeping, either too much or not enough

  • Memory and concentration issues, brain fog

  • Self-destructive behavior, including suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts



  • An elevated sense of personal power and greatness

  • High spikes of energy and enthusiasm

  • Talks fast, quickly jumping from topic to another

  • Racing thoughts, scattered thoughts

  • Doesn’t think things through, poor judgment

  • Impulsive behavior, for example: overeating, irresponsibly shopping, or substance abuse

  • Risk-taking behavior, for example: driving too fast, having unsafe sex, extreme physical activities

  • Rarely hungry

  • Insomnia, rarely tired, unable to settle down

  • Increased irritability

  • Temperamental, angry outbursts



It’s important to treat not only addiction, but the disorder itself as well. Because even if addiction were treated, the root of instability is still an issue if left untreated - increasing the chances of a patient relapsing. Dual diagnosis and treatment of co-occurring disorders are highly recommended. If you or a loved one struggles with a bipolar disorder (or any other disorder) and addiction, please contact Crownview Co-occurring Institute to get in touch with a trained medical professional who can create an individualized treatment plan.




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315 N. Clementine Street
Oceanside, CA 92054

2892 Jefferson Street
Carlsbad, CA 92008 

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760.433.HELP (4357)