Bipolar Disorder Treatment Medications Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Drug interactions and alcohol abuse are common By Marcia Purse | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician Updated January 03, 2019 Share Flip Email Print Peter Cade/Getty images More in Bipolar Disorder Treatment Medications Symptoms Diagnosis Doctors will commonly advise you to avoid alcohol while taking certain medications, particularly those used to treat mental health disorders. While it would be fair to assume that drowsiness is the main concern, there may be other, more serious consequences of mixing alcohol with bipolar drugs. Whether you are a heavy or occasional drinker, alcohol can undermine your therapy and increase your risk of drug toxicity, side effects, and even suicide. Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Bipolar disorder and substance use disorders often go hand in hand. According to a 2014 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance use disorders occur more frequently in people with mental health disorders than the general population. This is largely due to the fact that co-occurring conditions like substance abuse and bipolar disorder (BP) are often treated as a single problem rather than as separate entities. As such, symptoms suggestive of bipolar depression or mania may actually be related to a drinking problem and go untreated. The opposite also holds true. Research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders concluded that alcohol abuse was the single most prevalent substance use disorder in people with bipolar I and bipolar II disorders. According to an analysis of 22 multi-center studies and 56 individual studies, no less than 30 percent of bipolar people met the clinical definition of substance abuse disorder (SUD). Of these, 42 percent were classified as having an alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). Cannabis abuse was seen in 20 percent of people with BP, followed by cocaine and methamphetamine at 11 percent. Men with BP were two to three times more likely to have AUD than women with BP. Complications of BP and AUD Alcohol abuse can complicate the management of bipolar disorder. Not only does drinking impair your judgment and make you more impulsive, but it also increases your risk of suicide, injury, hospitalization, and sexually transmitted infections like HIV. According to research from the Medical University of South Carolina, the risk for attempted suicide is nearly twice as high in people with BP and AUD as it is in those with BP alone. Moreover, the effect alcohol has on a person's moods and judgment can make adherence to drug therapies all the more difficult, undermining the very goals of treatment. Due to these inherent risks, it is best to abstain from alcohol completely if you have bipolar disorder. Not only can drinking make your BP symptoms worse, achieving sobriety may be far more difficult when faced with the dual diagnosis. Medication Groups These following groups of psychotropic drugs used may have serious interactions with alcohol, ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening: Group A: Anti-Anxiety and Sedating Drugs This group of drugs includes benzodiazepines and certain prescription sleep aids such as: Ativan (lorazepam)Klonopin (clonazepam)Valium (diazepam)Xanax (alprazolam)Ambien (zolpidem)Lunesta (eszopiclone)Prosom (estazolam)Restoril (temazepam)Sominex (diphenhydramine) Group B: Tricyclic Antidepressants Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of drug used to treat severe mood disorders and include: Elavil (amitriptyline)Anafranil (clomipramine)Norpramin (desipramine) Group C: SSRI and SNRI Antidepressants Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants include: Celexa (citalopram)Prozac (fluoxetine)Lexapro (escitalopram)Zoloft (sertraline)Luvox (fluvoxamine)Paxil (paroxetine)Effexor (venlafaxine)Cymbalta (duloxetine) Group D: Atypical Antidepressants Atypical antidepressants are a newer class of antidepressant which include: Wellbutrin (bupropion)Desyrel, Oleptrol (trazodone)Serzone (nefazodone)Remeron (mirtazapine) St. John's Wort, an herbal supplement believed to have antidepressive effects, is also included in this drug group and has many other potentially dangerous interactions. Group E: Anticonvulsants Anticonvulsants used as mood stabilizers in people with BP include: Tegretol (carbamazepine)Lamictal (lamotrigine) Group F: Mood Stabilizers Other commonly prescribed mood stabilizers include: Lithobid, Eskalith (lithium)Depakene, Depakote (valproic acid) Group G: Antipsychotics Examples of antipsychotics used in bipolar therapy include: Zyprexa (olanzapine)Risperdal (risperidone)Seroquel (quetiapine)Abilify (aripiprazole)Geodon (ziprasidone) Possible Interactions With Alcohol by Medication Group Interaction Groups Drowsiness or dizziness All groups Increased risk of overdose Groups A, B, C, & G Slowed breathing or difficulty breathing Groups A & D Impaired motor control Groups A, F, & G Unusual behavior Groups A, D, & F Problems with memory Groups A & D Increased depression Groups B, C, F, & G Loss of effectiveness of antidepressant Groups B & C Increased risk of suicide or suicidal ideation (most especially in adolescents and young adults) Groups B & C Convulsions and heart rhythm disturbances Group B Liver damage Groups C (duloxetine) & F (valproic acid) Increased effect of alcohol Group D (bupropion) Tremors Group F Upset stomach Group F Muscle or joint pain Group F Restlessness Group F Appetite loss Group F A Word From Verywell Some over-the-counter products, especially cough syrup and laxatives, may contain enough alcohol to interact with your medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if they are safe to use. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Dealing with racing thoughts? Always feeling tired? Our guide offers strategies to help you or your loved one live better with bipolar disorder. Sign up for our newsletter and get it free. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Hunt, G.; Malhi, G.; Cleary, M. et al. Prevalence of Comorbid Bipolar and Substance Use Disorders in Clinical Settings, 1990-2015: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Affective Dis. 2016;206:331-49. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2016.07.011. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medications. Washington, D.C.: National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; updated 2014. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). An Introduction to Bipolar Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders. Rockville, Maryland: SAMHSA Advisory. Summer 2016;15(2); HHS Publication No. (SMA) 16-4960. Tolliver, B. and Anton, R. Assessment and Treatment of Mood Disorders in the Context of Substance Abuse. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015;17(2):181-190. Continue Reading Article Rx Drugs Can Cause Dry Mouth, Leading to Tooth Decay and Gum Disease Article What Are the Potential Side Effects of Lithium? Article Antipsychotics Used for Treating Manic Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder Article Can Bipolar Medication Be Causing Your Thinning Hair? Article Should You Take Symbyax for Your Bipolar Disorder? Article Understanding Your Bipolar Treatment Plan Article What Anxiety Medications Are Used for Bipolar Disorder? Article Can a Child Inherit Bipolar Disorder From His or Her Parents? 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