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The Relationship Between Manic Depression, Suicide and Addiction

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If you have a loved one with manic depression who also suffers from a substance use disorder, you probably know all too well the self-destructive behaviors associated with these co-occurring illnesses, including an increased risk of attempted suicide.

The most important thing you can do to help your loved one is to understand how manic depression, addiction, and suicide are related and what the research says about the best way to treat someone with these co-occurring disorders. Once you arm yourself with this information, you’ll likely find a renewed sense of hope, and that alone can help both you and your loved one approach treatment with a positive state of mind that will help improve the chances of long-term recovery.

Manic Depression, Substance Use Disorders, and Suicide

People with manic depression are more likely to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, and while psychoactive substances can seem to temporarily ease the symptoms of both manic and depressive episodes, they almost always worsen the condition. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, between 40 and 70 percent of people who have bipolar disorder also have a substance use disorder, which has been shown to worsen the outcome of this mental illness, including causing an increase in symptoms, longer episodes of mania or depression, more hospitalization, and more suicide attempts.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine indicate that bipolar disorder is the most common psychiatric condition associated with suicide, with between 25 and 50 percent of people with manic depression having attempted suicide at least once.

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According to a study published in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, the association between mood disorders, substance use disorders, and suicide has been recognized for many years. One study cited found that two-thirds of those who committed suicide had a substance use disorder, and another found that those with manic depression and alcohol or drug dependence were the highest-risk group for suicide.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Integrated Treatment

While these numbers may leave you feeling hopeless about the possibilities of recovery for your loved one, hope is an absolutely essential component of successful recovery from bipolar disorder that co-occurs with a substance addiction, according to a study published in the journal World Psychiatry. This and other studies show that recovery is possible, but it requires specialized treatment through a dual diagnosis recovery program that focuses on treating patients with co-occurring disorders.

Dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders involves treating each illness separately, but in an integrated way so that the treatments for the mental illness are conducted with the substance abuse in mind, and vice versa. But even as the prognosis for long-term recovery is much better among those who receive integrated dual diagnosis treatment, only around 19 percent of people who have a severe mental illness along with a substance addiction actually receive this type of treatment.

Therapies Used in Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Integrated group therapy (IGT) is a standard component of dual diagnosis treatment for people with bipolar disorder and substance addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this therapy has been found to reduce patients’ substance abuse more effectively than standard counseling protocol that focuses primarily on the addiction.

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The Mayo Clinic cites other therapies that have been found successful in treating manic depression and substance use disorders in a dual diagnosis setting. These include pharmacotherapy, or the administration of medications to control symptoms associated with manic depression; cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients replace harmful thoughts and attitudes with healthier ones; psychoeducation, which helps patients better understand their disorders; and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, or IPSRT, which helps patients manage their moods by establishing routines for eating, sleeping, and exercise.

There is Hope

Finding a high-quality dual diagnosis treatment program for your loved one can make an enormous difference in both his recovery from substance addiction and the management of his manic depression symptoms, as well as a marked reduction in the risk of suicide and other self-destructive behaviors. It also gives you and your loved one a great deal of hope for the future, which can further improve the outcomes of dual diagnosis treatment.

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