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Jul 7, 2007
21 September 2007

Substance abuse affects bipolar patients' ability to take medications

MedWire News: Many bipolar disorder patients who also suffer from substance abuse problems fail to take their medications as advised, which increases their risk of suffering from depression and mania symptoms, researchers have found.

Dr Sumita Manwani, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and team explain that up to 60% of people with bipolar disorder will develop a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives.

To investigate whether substance abuse affects the ability of bipolar disorder patients to take their medications, the researchers studied 115 patients with the mood disorder, half of whom suffered from substance abuse problems.

The patients were asked whether they had ever failed to take their mood-stabilising medications, and if so, their reasons for not sticking with their treatment.

In total, 35% of bipolar disorder patients with substance abuse problems had not taken their medications as advised, compared with just 18% of bipolar patients without such problems.

Patients with substance abuse problems said that alcohol and drug use was the main obstacle that prevented them from taking their medications as advised. Among the other patients, medication dosage was the main reason they had failed to stick to their treatment plans.

"It appears from this study that bipolar disorder patients with and without substance abuse disorder differ in their rates and patterns of [medication] adherence," Dr Manwani and team conclude in the Clinical Journal of Psychiatry.

They add that doctors should take these findings into account when prescribing bipolar medications to ensure that their patients have the best chance of remaining on their recommended treatment plans.

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