Substance Use Disorder and Bipolar Disorder: Potential Links

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – Teenagers suffering from bipolar disorder are especially at risk of developing later drug problems by the time they reach adulthood, according to research published in August 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

For the study, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a follow-up investigation of more than 100 teenagers diagnosed with bipolar disorder that they had extensively interviewed five years earlier, reports Medical Daily. After re-interviewing 68 of the participants, the researchers found that these now-young adults had an elevated risk of suffering a substance use disorder or becoming smokers compared to a control group that was similarly followed. Throughout the five-year period, the rate of new substance use disorder cases was 49 percent in the bipolar group compared to 26 percent in the control group.

In addition, the researchers found that those originally diagnosed with bipolar disorder who continued to have symptoms five years later were at an even higher risk for substance use disorder than those whose symptoms were reduced either because of remission from bipolar disorder or from treatment. Both those with active symptoms and those whose symptoms had improved were at greater risk than the control group.

“Understanding substance use disorders presents an array of challenges for researchers, such as learning more about their potential links to other types of disorders,” says Roger Crystal, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Opiant Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company. “Another challenge for these conditions is developing new and more effective treatments.”

Opiant is studying the use of opioid antagonists in various delivery forms, in particular using nasal sprays, for the treatment of substance abuse disorders, eating disorders and addictive disorders. The company has planned a series of clinical studies to begin in late 2016 and going forward. The company has already developed NARCAN® Nasal Spray, which is being marketed by its partner and licensee, Adapt Pharma.

The brain’s reward circuitry is thought to be what regulates the occurrence of these disorders. Increased levels of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters—such as opioids, endorphins and dopamine—activate the brain’s reward circuitry. However, opioid antagonists can potentially block the effects of these chemicals and make these types of behaviors less tempting to those who would otherwise obsessively engage in them.

“These are exciting times for the research community as it learns more about substance use disorders and the potential of various novel therapies to mitigate their effects,” adds Crystal.

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