Alcohol and Marijuana Use to Self-Medicate Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in Later Life: A Case Study Approach

Sarah L Canham, Pia M Mauro, Atiya Mahmood, David King, Norm O'Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


The use of substances to self-medicate, that is to alleviate or treat various negative states, has been acknowledged as a common coping mechanism for various psychiatric conditions. Self-medication with substances is associated with various negative outcomes, including the development of substance use disorders. Extant literature shows that 60% of community samples with bipolar disorder (BD) have reported abusing one or more substances at some point in their lives. Aside from sharing a common cause of psychopathology, self-medication may be one contributing factor to the high co-occurrence of BD and substance use. Understanding people's interpretations and reasons for use could help inform interventions and assess readiness to change. Given the high prevalence of co-occurring BD and substance use and the complex unique trajectories of each person, we used a case study approach to highlight individual experiences during these types of co-occurrence in later life. The lens of a life course framework with a focus on personal theories on self medication allowed us to uncover how and when the use of different substances fit into the participant's lives over time and across mood states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S130-S131
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number24
StatePublished - Mar 2016


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