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J Affect Disord. 2013 Feb 15;145(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.06.012. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Do alcohol use disorders destabilize the course of bipolar disorder?

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Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, Emory University, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 1256 Briarcliff Rd, 3rd Floor North, Atlanta, GA 30306, USA.



To determine whether long-term data implicate a negative effect of alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) on time to remission, risk of mood episode recurrence, and risk of mood switch/cycling in patients with bipolar disorder (BD). The short-term temporal sequence between alcohol use and onset of mood episodes was also examined.


A MEDLINE literature search was conducted for measurement-based reports of alcohol and course of bipolar disorder.


Twenty-three original data publications were identified. Three out of 5 studies addressing the impact of AUDs on recovery from a mood episode demonstrated that alcohol did not prolong index mood episodes of any type. Six out of 11 reports evaluating the relationship between alcohol and the long term risk of mood episode recurrences suggested that high levels of alcohol intake increase the risk of a mood recurrence. Five out of 7 studies evaluating the short-term temporal sequence of AUDs and development of mood episodes among BD patients found that increased alcohol use preceded the development of new mood episodes. Four out of 5 studies examining the association between alcohol and rapid cycling indicated that AUDs were associated with higher rates of rapid-cycling.


We limited our review to studies that were large enough to perform statistical testing, which may have led us to overlook informative smaller studies.


Although alcohol does not seem to affect time to mood episode remission, alcohol use destabilizes the course of illness over the long run as evidenced by associations with more rapid cycling and mood episode recurrence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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