Bipolar Teens are More Likely to Abuse Harmful Substances

Bipolar disorder l and ll are part of a severe mental illness spectrum that can be dangerous if left untreated, especially when it comes to troubled teenage girls. While it is debilitating if left untreated, professional therapy and medication can fully rehabilitate a bipolar diagnosed teen and allow them to manage their mental illness.  We at Clearview have created this article to help educate parents on the specifics of bipolar disorder - namely, how un-or-mistreated teens are at high risk of developing a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. 

Bipolar Teens Are at Higher-Risk of Abusing and Becoming Addicted to Harmful Substances

As parents of bipolar-diagnosed teenage girls know, bipolar disorder can be a devastating mental illness if left untreated. A recent Massachusetts study provides even more motivation for parents to seek immediate treatment for their child - who, if left to their own devices without it, are prone to erratic and sometimes volatile mood swings. 

According to the study, bipolar teens are at a significantly higher risk of developing substance abuse and addiction than teens who do not have it. 

"The addition of new research seems to reaffirm that teens who suffer from bipolar disorder become increasingly at-risk of developing addictive traits as t

hey age." - Massachusetts Clinical Psychiatry Research Team

The study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry by Massachusetts General Hospital took five years of research and included 200 teenage volunteers (100 bipolar and non-bipolar teens). 

After five years, the researchers were only able to track down 68 of the initial 100 volunteers. Upon re-interviewing the now-adult 68 volunteers, the research team concluded that they suffered from substance abuse-related problems at a much higher rate than the non-bipolar control group. 

In their findings, the Massachusetts Clinical Psychiatry research team found that the 68 bipolar young adults had a 49% likelihood of developing a long-lasting substance addiction, much higher than the control group’s (still) fairly high 26%.

While these findings seem to be staggering, the research team was not yet finished with their eye-opening, scientific revelations.

"We also made another interesting finding — that those originally diagnosed with bipolar disorder who continued to have symptoms five years later were at an even higher risk for cigarette smoking and substance use disorder than those whose symptoms were reduced either because of remission from bipolar disorder or treatment," said lead author of both studies Dr. Timothy Wilens, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Mass.

Why Bipolar-Diagnosed Teens are More Likely to Develop A Substance Abuse Disorder 

According to the Child Mind Institute, 60% of bipolar-afflicted individuals have a co-occurring Disorder. They state that many teens who receive substance abuse treatment are subsequently diagnosed with a bipolar diagnosis. As to why bipolar is diagnosed after seeking drug and alcohol treatment, experts say it’s because drugs and alcohol can trigger manic episodes that are more visible when a teenager is inebriated or high.  

The inherent behavior-related symptoms of bipolar disorder are also an issue. Bipolar disorder is known to cause impulsivity issues. What’s worse, these issues are not limited to manic episodes, but in general. The connection between impulsivity, manic depression, and substance abuse explains why bipolar teens are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol and why they are more likely to become fully addicted. 

The type of drugs most commonly associated with bipolar teens, such as nicotine and alcohol, also chemically complicate medication treatment. For example, nicotine biologically contends with enzymes in bipolar medications necessary to make them effectively treat imbalances within the brain’s chemistry. The same can be said for the enzymes found in alcohol, decreasing the body’s ability to process these enzymes. 

What’s more, drugs like nicotine and alcohol also change a teen’s body’s response to bipolar medication, causing a greater or diminished effect. These unstable re

actions can be dangerous, or at the very least, cause medications to increase the chaotic symptoms related to bipolar disorder. 

With Intensive Treatment, Co-Occurring Disorders Involving Bipolar and Substance Abuse Can Be Effectively Treated 

According to the Child Mind Institute experts, substance abuse disorder in bipolar teens can be effectively treated with intensive psychiatric and therapeutic interventions. With the severe nature of bipolar and substance abuse disorder, experts suggest that parents seek out residential treatment that can provide 24 hour rehabilitative and psychiatric treatments for extended periods of time. 

The Child Mind Institute recommends parents utilize the resources of a residential treatment center (or therapeutic boarding school) that can provide addicted, bipolar teens with clinical treatment, necessary medications, and an individualized treatment program that includes intensive, one-on-one therapies. Additionally, the experts at CMI recommend parents locate a facility that offers proven, dynamic, cutting-edge therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and neurofeedback therapy. 

For more immediate assistance or more information on how we can help you today, please call us at (888) 796-5484.