Medication Compliance Among Patients With Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use Disorder

Background: This study examined patterns of medication compliance and reasons for noncompliance among patients with bipolar disorder and substance use disorder.

Method: Forty-four patients with current bipolar disorder and substance use disorder were administered a structured interview regarding lifetime compliance with prescribed psychotropic medications.

Results: Patients who were prescribed both lithium and valproate were significantly (p=.03) more likely to report full compliance with valproate than with lithium. Side effects were the most common reason for lithium noncompliance, but were not cited as a reason for valproate noncompliance. Also, a common pattern of noncompliance among patients prescribed benzodiazepines, neuroleptics, and tricyclic antidepressants was the use of more medication than prescribed.

Conclusion: Valproate may have greater acceptability than lithium among patients with bipolar disorder and substance use disorder. Clinicians should also be aware that these patients may take higher doses of medication than prescribed.

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(4):172-174