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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • bipolar;
  • comorbidity

Objectives:  Despite a high prevalence rate, patients with bipolar disorder and active alcohol use are routinely excluded from controlled clinical trials leaving clinicians with little evidence-based medicine to guide treatment. This report evaluates preliminary data of alcohol consumption patterns utilizing the Alcohol Timeline Followback (TLFB) method in actively drinking patients with bipolar disorder.

Methods:  A sample of 30 patients underwent a Structured Diagnostic Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-IV) as well as completing various measures of alcohol use and associated morbidity.

Results:  In the month prior to study entry, the TLFB reported 18.4/30 ± 9.12 drinking days, 9.9 ± 4.73 drinks per drinking day and 169.4 ± 101.71 total standard drinks for this study group. There was a significant difference in the number of drinks per drinking day between those diagnosed with rapid cycling than non-rapid cycling bipolar disorder and those with a new diagnosis versus established diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Discussion:  This study highlights heavy alcohol use in patients with bipolar disorder and alcohol comorbidity. The TLFB method provides ‘real world’ quantification of use. Further studies are encouraged to elucidate implications of heavy drinking patterns as found in our rapid cycling and newly diagnosed cohorts.