There is ample evidence that teen bipolar disorder leads to alcoholism or drug abuse, largely based on the fact that some studies suggest that over 50% of bipolar individuals abuse drugs or alcohol. Bipolar teens are no exception, with alcohol and marijuana being the most commonly used substances. It is important to recognize that not all bipolar teens will abuse alcohol and other drugs.
Alcoholism is a complex disease; some experts believe it is genetic while others believe that it develops due to life factors. Regardless of the root nature of alcoholism, bipolar teens are often drawn to alcohol as a means of self-medication. As a depressant, the consumption of alcohol provides two perceived benefits for individuals with bipolar. During manic periods, teens will turn to alcohol to slow down their thoughts and behaviors. In “low” or depressing periods, teens may turn to the euphoric effect of alcohol to temporarily boost their mood.
The consumption of alcohol is particularly dangerous for bipolar teens, as it increases anxiety and depression once its effects wear off, making their mood even more unstable than before. In addition, mixing psychiatric drugs with alcohol can greatly increase levels of intoxication, reduce the effectiveness of medicine, and dramatically worsen manic or depressive states. Even small amounts of alcohol present serious risks to bipolar individuals, particularly teens.
Alcohol and drug abuse is far more prevalent in individuals with untreated bipolar disorder. While there is some debate as to whether or not teen bipolar disorders leads to alcoholism, the truth of the matter is that all individuals with bipolar disorder should abstain from alcohol and drugs.