Bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder: practical recommendations for treatment, based on a literature review
background A fairly large proportion (25-50%) of patients with bipolar disorder (bd) also suffer from comorbid alcohol use disorder (aud). However, little is known how this type of morbidity should be treated. It is also unclear whether the current guidelines on bd have been influenced by aud.
aim To provide an overview of recent literature concerning the diagnosis and treatment of comorbid bd and aud.
method We systematically reviewed studies that have addressed three treatment options for this group of patients: pharmaco-therapy, psychological interventions and self-management techniques.
results If health professionals decide to treat bd using a pharmaco-therapeutic intervention, they must proceed with caution because the patient may also be suffering from aud. From the very limited number of published articles on this subject, we conclude that the best solution to the problem is to add valproate to the lithium-based treatment. There is also limited evidence that other effective treatments may include the use of integrated psychological interventions, cognitive behavioural therapy and self-management techniques, but these possibilities need further investigation.
conclusion Treatment of patients suffering from both bd and aud should always focus on both disorders, either simultaneously or separately. If this approach is successful it is vitally important that care is better organised and that there is cooperation between institutions involved in treating addiction disorders and departments that specialise in the care of bd. These improvements are likely to lead to further developments and to more research into new forms of integrated treatment.