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Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme shifts in mood. Individuals may experience manic highs and depressive lows. Unfortunately, although bipolar disorder can be treated, many people choose to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms. However, self-medication often leads to the development of an addiction.

People who suffer from bipolar disorder and addiction face unique challenges, both in active addiction and in recovery. These individuals require specialized treatment to successfully overcome these issues. Treatment for bipolar disorder and addiction consists of a careful combination of medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and peer support.

Bipolar Disorder

How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

The standard treatment for bipolar disorder involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication.[1] Depending on the severity of a person’s symptoms and episodes, they may be treated on an inpatient or solely outpatient basis.


Many patients who suffer from bipolar disorder take more than one medication. Oftentimes they will take a mood stabilizer and either an antidepressant or antipsychotic. These medications should be used alongside psychotherapy to reduce the risk of bipolar episodes in the future.

Medication therapy for bipolar disorder is usually continued indefinitely or for as long as a patient will continue taking their medications. Sometimes, bipolar episodes may be stabilized using higher doses, but once patients are stable, their doctor may reduce the dose to a maintenance dose.

Patients who struggle with bipolar disorder are also known to struggle with medication adherence. People who notice a remission in symptoms for several months may be tempted to stop taking their medications. However, discontinuation of bipolar disorder medications can put individuals at an increased risk for a relapse in symptoms. In patients with bipolar disorder and addiction, stopping the medication may also lead to relapse with drugs and alcohol as a result of bipolar symptoms.

Anyone who is taking medication for bipolar disorder should speak with their doctor before discontinuing use.


Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness that must be managed with both medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy can help improve medication adherence as well as episodic symptoms. The most effective psychotherapies involve talk therapies or behavioral therapies, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – a form of talk therapy that helps patients recognize emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It aims to change destructive behaviors and thought patterns by replacing them with healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Psychoeducation – educational groups aim to help patients understand their disorder, the importance of continued treatment, and social support.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) – IPSRT is a therapy that is specifically designed to treat bipolar disorder. It helps patients address problems that contribute to their episodes and teaches them how to communicate more effectively.[2]

Other treatments that may be useful in treating bipolar disorder include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Family-focused therapy

Beyond treatment, patients are encouraged to keep a journal of their symptoms and incorporate regular exercise and a healthy diet into their lifestyle. When a person struggles with both bipolar disorder and addiction, however, the treatment can be slightly more complex.

Treating Bipolar Disorder and Addiction With Dual Diagnosis Treatment in North Carolina

Treatment for bipolar disorder and addiction includes a variety of therapeutic services and interventions. The above-listed therapies are applied in group and individual therapy sessions so patients can better understand their diseases and how to seek support from other people.

Fortunately, many symptoms of bipolar disorder and addiction are overlapping. Symptoms of one condition may be mistaken for another. While this makes diagnoses challenging, it makes treatment easier. Using methods like CBT, biofeedback, relapse prevention, and psychoeducation, therapists can address issues unique to both addiction and bipolar disorder.

The most important aspect of treatment for bipolar disorder and drug or alcohol addiction is individually-tailored treatment plans. These two conditions are very complex, and every individual is unique, so it’s important that everyone has a treatment plan custom-made to meet their needs.

In addition to the traditional psychotherapies and medications used to treat bipolar disorder, these services may be incorporated into treatment to address drug and alcohol addiction, as well.

  • Relapse prevention therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • Harm-reduction classes
  • Biofeedback/neurofeedback
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Support groups
  • 12-Step facilitation
  • Trauma and PTSD therapy

Learn More About Dual Diagnosis Treatment in North Carolina Today

Bipolar disorder can make healing from addiction more difficult than it already is. It can also put individuals at a higher risk for relapse. For these reasons, it is vital that people suffering from dual diagnosis substance use and bipolar disorder obtain the personalized treatment they need to get their symptoms under control and put the drugs and alcohol away for good.

Addiction treatment programs in North Carolina can help patients with bipolar disorder and addiction using an integrated treatment approach referred to as dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis programs aim to address and manage co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health condition and substance abuse, take the first step towards freedom by contacting us at Carolina Center for Recovery today.