Effect of Alcohol to the Bipolar Patient

Frequent alcohol use can have a detrimental effect on the health of someone suffering from bipolar disorder for a number of reasons. People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder should seriously limit their alcohol intake to prevent any serious complications. A drink every now and then will not usually cause any serious problems, but that is for the patient to discuss with his doctor.

Effect on Moods

    According to Dr. Stephen Strakowski, professor of psychology and biomedical engineering at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the moods of people with bipolar disorder. Alcohol use can deepen the depression and even trigger mania. A normal person experiences chemical changes in his brain when he drinks, but when used in moderation, it does not cause any serious damage. However, since the brain of a person with bipolar disorder is different, his response to alcohol is more intense.

Impaired Judgment

    People with bipolar disorder already suffer from impulsive behavior as a result of mania. When alcohol is added, the combination of impaired judgment and impulsive behavior can lead the person to do things she would normally never do. Although all people can make bad decisions when under the influence of alcohol, those with bipolar disorder tend to not only be more likely to make bad decisions, but their actions tend to be worse.

Alcohol and Medications

    Alcohol use can cause patients to forget to take their medication. In addition, alcohol interferes with the effectiveness of most psychiatric drugs. For example, alcohol can dilute the potency of medication. Other medications react to alcohol by becoming more potent and potentially reaching toxic levels. Certain antidepressants and mood stabilizers can cause mania and even psychosis when mixed with alcohol. It is important for those with bipolar disorder to know what complications can occur when mixing alcohol with their regular medications.


    Bipolar disorder is strongly tied to addiction, as those with this disorder are more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Before treatment has been started, people with bipolar disorder may self-medicate with alcohol under the mistaken belief that it can help reduce symptoms. The reason those with bipolar disorder are more likely to suffer addictions is unknown, but there is a strong connection between bipolar disorder and the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.


    Drinking alcohol puts a person with bipolar disorder at greater risk for committing suicide. Alcohol causes mood swings to worsen, impaired judgment and can alter the effectiveness of medications. This combination puts the patient at greater risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts are common in people with bipolar disorder; therefore, if the alcohol causes the depression to deepen enough while the person is under the influence of alcohol, her impulsive behavior and impaired judgment may lead her to act on these thoughts.