Alcohol-use disorders are common co-occurring conditions affecting bipolar patients, and this co-occurrence is negatively associated with outcome.
The primary goal of this study was to identify how the relative onsets of alcohol-use and bipolar disorders affect the subsequent courses of illness in patients with both conditions.
Design and Setting
Inception cohort at an academic medical center.
Patients meeting criteria for type I bipolar disorder, manic or mixed, with ages of 12 to 45 years, no prior hospitalizations, and minimal prior treatment. We enrolled 144 subjects who were followed up for up to 5 years, including 27 subjects in whom the onset of an alcohol-use disorder preceded the onset of bipolar disorder (Alcohol First), 33 subjects in whom bipolar disorder onset preceded or was concurrent with the onset of alcohol abuse (Bipolar First), and 83 subjects with bipolar disorder only (No Alcohol).
Main Outcome Measures
Symptomatic recovery and recurrence of both conditions and percentage of follow-up with affective episodes and affective and alcohol-use disorder symptoms.
The Alcohol First group was older and more likely to recover and recover more quickly than the other groups. Affective symptomatic recurrence curves were similar among groups. The Bipolar First group spent more time with affective episodes and symptoms of an alcohol-use disorder during follow-up than the Alcohol First group. Hospitalization was associated with a period of decreased alcohol abuse, although recurrence of the alcohol-use disorder was common.
The relative age at onset of alcohol-use and bipolar disorders is associated with differences in the course of both conditions. A first hospitalization for mania is associated with a period of recovery from comorbid alcohol abuse, suggesting this posthospital time may provide an opportunity to treat this co-occurring condition.