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Am J Addict. 2010 Nov-Dec;19(6):474-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2010.00077.x. Epub 2010 Sep 21.

Reasons for substance use among adolescents with bipolar disorder.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit of the Psychiatry Department, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boson, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


We examined whether children and adolescents with bipolar disorder (BPD) "self-medicate" with cigarettes, alcohol, or other substances of abuse. One hundred and five adolescents with BPD and 98 controls were comprehensively assessed with a structured psychiatric diagnostic interview for psychopathology and the Drug Use Screening Inventory (DUSI) for self-medication. Thirteen control (mean ± standard deviation [SD]= 15.31 ± 1.18 years) and 27 BPD (15.30 ± 2.09 years) subjects endorsed use of one of the listed drugs in the DUSI Section A within the past year and were included in all analyses. BPD adolescents were more likely than nonmood disordered, substance-using controls to report starting to use their preferred drug for mood-altering effects. There were no differences between groups in motivation for use with respect to starting substances to sleep better or get high, or in continuing substances to change mood, sleep better, or get high. These data may contribute to increased prevention of substance use disorders and to the treatment of adolescent BPD. Further studies clarifying the characteristics of self-medication are necessary.

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