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Does Recovery From Substance Use Disorder Matter in Patients With Bipolar Disorder?

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(6):730-735

Objective: To examine the potential impact of recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) on the course of bipolar disorder among patients diagnosed with both bipolar and substance use disorders according to DSM-IV criteria.

Method: As part of the multicenter Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), we examined bipolar disorder status (i.e., whether the patient is recovering or recovered), role functioning, and quality of life in the first 1000 patients to enter the STEP-BD study. We compared patients with no history of SUD, current SUD, and past SUD (i.e., lifetime SUD, but no current SUD) on these parameters. Data were collected between November 1999 and April 2001.

Results: A current clinical status of recovering or recovered from bipolar disorder was less likely among patients with current or past SUD compared to patients with no SUD (p < .002). Recovering/recovered status did not differ significantly between patients with current SUD versus past SUD. All 3 groups differed significantly on measures of role functioning as assessed by the Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation-Range of Impaired Functioning Tool (LIFE-RIFT), with poorest role functioning among patients with current SUD, followed by patients with past SUD (p = .0002). Patients with current or past SUD reported significantly lower quality of life as measured by the LIFE-RIFT and the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire and more lifetime suicide attempts (p < .001) than patients without an SUD; patients with past versus current SUD did not differ significantly on these measures.

Conclusion: The results suggest that patients with bipolar disorder who experience sustained remission from an SUD fare better than patients with current SUD, but not as well as subjects with no history of SUD; differences among the 3 groups appear greatest in the area of role functioning.