Substance Use in Young Adults with Bipolar Disorder

July 9, 2013 Alexa Poe

Between the social expectations of college and the stress of every day life that young adults face, substance use is something that many of us living with bipolar disorder often turn to (Self-Medication Of A Mental Health Problem).

Substance use, which includes the use of alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, tobacco products, and caffeine, is almost always discouraged by mental health professionals for those living with bipolar disorder and other mental health problems. Many people will argue that there is a certain appeal to using these substances, and the feelings that they offer is certainly enticing to some (Why Are So Many People with Bipolar Addicted to Drugs?). The fact still remains that these substances can alter moods, and can also decrease the effectiveness of many prescribed psychiatric medications.

Substance use in something many young adults with bipolar disorder turn to for self-medication. Here are some alternatives to substance use to manage symptoms.

Things To Do Instead of Using Substances

  • Journal: Write down what triggered you to want to drink, smoke, or use drugs. Write down the thoughts you are having and the corresponding emotions. This will help you identify and deal with your triggers.
  • Talk to someone: Ask someone to talk and to go out and do something together. Also, talk to the people in your support network about removing any temptations that may be lying around.
  • Create something: Pick up a pencil or a paintbrush and get to work. It's easy to get lost in your mind and lose track of time when you're creating a piece of artwork.
  • Exercise: Go out for a walk or a bike ride and get that adrenalin pumping. Not only will you get "in the zone," but the endorphins and other chemicals will help your body as well.
  • Meditate: There are many forms of meditation, but meditation can be as simple as sitting on the floor and breathing deeply while focusing on your surrounding environment (My Brain Is Too Busy To Meditate - False).
  • Reward yourself: Every time you choose a healthier option as opposed to using a substance, reward yourself with something that's important to you. It can be something small like a piece of chocolate, or take yourself out to lunch. Also, reward yourself as you reach certain milestones, such as a month free from substances. Once you reach a certain milestone, buy yourself a new album or new shoes.
  • Find online and local support groups: This may not be for everyone, but support groups can play a huge role in recovery, and most universities offer mental health services with group therapy, and also help with substance use.

How do you help yourself and others who turn to substance use in times of need? Do you reward yourself for your achieved goals during your sobriety?

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APA Reference
Poe, A. (2013, July 9). Substance Use in Young Adults with Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Alexa Poe

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