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Keywords:

  • aggression;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • depression;
  • impulsivity;
  • mania;
  • substance abuse

Objectives:  The goal of this retrospective study was to examine factors differentiating persons with bipolar disorder who did or did not have comorbid lifetime substance use disorders (SUD) at an index assessment. We also explored the chronology of onset of mood and SUD.

Methods:  We studied 146 subjects with DSM-defined bipolar disorder. Subgroups with and without lifetime SUD were compared on demographic and clinical measures.

Results:  Substance abuse disorders in this bipolar sample were associated with male sex, impulsive-aggressive traits, comorbid conduct and Cluster B personality disorders, number of suicide attempts and earlier age at onset of a first mood episode. In a multivariable logistic regression analysis, male sex and aggression and possibly earlier age at mood disorder onset were associated with SUD. In those with or without SUD, the first mood episode tended to be depressive and to precede the onset of SUD.

Conclusions:  In persons with bipolar disorder, an earlier age of onset and aggressive traits appear to be factors associated with later development of comorbid SUD.