Substance Abuse and Bipolar

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Why are those of us with Bipolar Disorder (BPD) susceptible to substance abuse? I asked my doctor this question. She said, “most of the time people are self-medicating and they get hooked”. This is where those built in supports come to play. Having someone you are accountable to for the way you take medication, drink, or smoke is important. They can handle high risk medications to prevent you from taking medication for reasons other then why they were prescribed. Because we have BD we are considered higher risk patients for things such as pain management, treatment of ADHD, and other medical conditions that result in the prescribing of control substances.

I have my husband handle the issuing of my medications that are controlled. Not because I have a problem but because I don’t want to develop one. This accountability helps me to be conscious of every time I need to take one of these medications.  I take them for legitimate issues and not because it may make me “feel good”. Similarly, I stay away from alcohol and smoking. They aren’t good for me and don’t mix well with my medications. Therefore, I haven’t drunk anything in over 2 years. Genetically, this is a potential issue for me, so I keep it out of my life. Although, I thought I could dance like J-Lo when I did drink. Does that mean you can never enjoy a glass of wine or a mug of beer again? No, it means you need to realize your weaknesses and prepare ahead of time for the situations for where they might be present. Make your decision of how to behave ahead of time. Then when you find yourself in that position you will have your mind made up on how to act. Alcohol abuse and dependency affect 44% of us.

Illegal drugs, not including cannabis, are pitfalls. I have never seen anyone do illegal drugs, not including cannabis, and walk away without issues. Roughly 56% of those with BD have a history of illegal drug use. That is assuming they never got caught! Meth, Heroin, Cocaine, Crack, and so on are highly processed chemical mixtures. You never know what you are getting and how it will conflict with your body and mind. I have seen so many people’s lives ruined by drugs and self-medication. Cannabis is an exception to this rule, I believe. I will address this in a future post.

The long and short of it. Be compliant with your meds. Don’t self-medicate. Have supports in place to keep you accountable to someone you trust who will call you out when you need it.

Treating Addiction with Severe Bipolar Disorder. 2018. Retrieved from

Moore, Liz, NP. 2018. Reid Psychiatric Associates.

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