August 18, 2005

Concurrent Alcohol Abuse: Age of Onset Influences Course

Bipolar disorder often co-occurs with a substance abuse disorder, most commonly alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse in bipolar patients is often associated with a bad outcome for the course of the illness. Researchers decided to look at the age of onset for this co-occuring disorder to see if/how that influenced the course of the illness.

The participants in the study were 33 people with bipolar disorder who developed an alcohol abuse problem after their bipolar diagnosis and 27 people whose alcohol abuse problems started before their bipolar disorder diagnosis. There were 83 people with bipolar disorder who did not have an alcohol abuse problem, and acted as controls for the study.

It was found that those who had an alcohol abuse disorder prior to their bipolar disorder diagnosis, developed it at an older age than the other patients with bipolar disorder. They also had a less severe form of bipolar disorder and had a better chance of recovering and recovering quickly. Those who developed an alcohol abuse problem after their initial bipolar diagnosis had more "affective episodes" and had to deal with more of the symptoms of an alcohol abuse disorder.

"Both groups of patients with comorbid alcohol-use and bipolar disorders exhibited very high rates of recovery from the alcohol-use disorder in the period immediately following hospitalization, the researchers note in the Archives of General Psychiatry. This suggests that hospitalization for acute mania initiates a period of sobriety in many patients, they explain. However, the team adds that both patient groups also exhibited relatively rapid and common recurrences, highlighting the period immediately after hospitalization as a possible therapeutic window to decrease rates of alcohol abuse relapse" (, 2005).

The researchers stated that due to their findings, it is apparent that the age of onset for an alcohol use disorder and bipolar disorder affects the course of their illness and how soon they will recover.

Original Source: Age at onset influences co-occurring alcohol abuse and bipolar illness course. PsychiatrySource. August 16, 2005.

This research study was originally published in: Arch Gen Psychiatry 2005; 62: 851–858


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