Figuring out how to best manage bipolar disorder can be a long and challenging process. Different treatments can offer new potential for relief, but in some cases, may pose significant risks as well.
When you have a loved one struggling with bipolar disorder, the desire to help them feel better can be almost overwhelming. The good news is that there are an increasing number of resources available to treat mental health disorders, from different forms of psychotherapies, to a broad palette of wellness resources, as well as new medications and medical technologies. The potential for finding a method that can bring a loved one relief is expanding, and exploring different options is an excellent way to start the road to better health.
In a few cases, the prescription drug Adderall has been used as a way to treat bipolar disorder. This has added another option to the range of medications used to manage bipolar symptoms, but has also raised some questions about the potential risks associated with Adderall use.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription medication containing amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two central nervous stimulants. These drugs work by increasing flows of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. While norepinephrine helps boost attentiveness, focus, and reaction speed, dopamine is a “feel good” brain chemical that elevates mood and feelings of pleasure.
Adderall has been used mostly to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as narcolepsy. However, there has been some recent use of Adderall to treat certain symptoms that arise during bipolar episodes.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterised by mood swings, which can range in severity from significant to extreme. Moods vary between “mania,” an elevated state marked by sometimes intense energy, and depression. There are different types of bipolar disorder, and these types are generally determined based on the length and severity of symptoms in each state.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Typical symptoms experienced by people with bipolar disorder include:
- Periods of mania or hypomania
- Increased levels of energy, to the point of feeling out of control
- Trouble sleeping; requiring less sleep
- Overconfidence and exaggeration
- Racing speech and thoughts
- Risky or impulsive behaviour
- Periods of depression
- Feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, and/or sadness
- Difficulty concentrating or staying on task
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Increased irritability and anxiety
- Loss of appetite
These symptoms can cause serious disruptions to people’s daily lives, impacting their personal and professional relationships and potentially causing great distress. This is why treatment is essential in helping someone with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms and live a healthy, happy life.
How is Adderall Used to Treat Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
Adderall has not been approved to treat bipolar disorder by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has begun to be prescribed by some psychiatrists as a way to boost mood and energy for people struggling with a depressive mood cycle brought on by bipolar disorder. Initial medical reviews have shown that a key ingredient in Adderall, dextroamphetamine, is helpful in alleviating depression and exhaustion for people with bipolar disorder. In other cases, Adderall may be prescribed to help focus the energy of a manic state, and boost impulse control and concentration.
However, more research is needed to understand the impacts of Adderall for those living with bipolar disorder, particularly given the potential for significant side effects that can occur with Adderall use.
Common Side Effects of Adderall
Those who take Adderall may experience side effects including:
- Stomach upset
- Lack of appetite
- Nervousness or anxiety
Risks Associated with Adderall Use
While Adderall can be an effective treatment for some, as a stimulant it can produce serious side effects, particularly when used for long periods of time.
Tolerance: Those who take Adderall regularly may develop a tolerance for it, necessitating higher or more frequent doses to get the same effect.
Addiction: The effects that Adderall has on reward centres of the brain also increases the likelihood of addiction or misuse among those who take it.
Increase or Worsen Manic Episodes: Adderall also has some specific risks for people with bipolar disorder. Some studies have found that using Adderall may increase the possibility of a manic episode if taken outside of one, or worsen mania. People taking Adderall may also experience increased symptoms of depression between doses.
Common Methods of Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a complex condition that often requires an array of treatment methods in order to best manage it. Working with a mental health specialist will help the bipolar sufferer identify and test different methods under professional supervision in order to determine what particular blend of techniques is effective.
Typically, mood stabilisers (such as lithium and valproic acid), antipsychotics (such as olanzapine and lurasidone) and antidepressants are used to treat bipolar disorder. Antidepressants must also be administered carefully, as they also have the potential to trigger manic episodes.
There are many different types of therapy that can be used to build understanding of bipolar disorder, including awareness of triggers, warning signs that a manic or depressive cycle is beginning, strategic plans for how to manage symptoms, and what kind of support is needed.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a new, FDA-approved medical technology used to treat medication-resistant depression. This non-invasive therapy has no side effects, and has been shown to successfully alleviate symptoms.
Being familiar with a range of personal wellness activities is often critical in coping with symptoms of bipolar disorder. Activities can include quieter practices, such as meditation and gentle stretching, to more physical exercises like yoga, jogging, or fitness classes.
Finding Relief from Bipolar Symptoms at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab specialises in providing holistic, personalised treatment for a range of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder. Our programme has been designed to help our clients gain a deeper understanding of their condition and learn skills to successfully manage their disorder.
Our internationally-trained clinical team has created a Twin Pillars treatment approach that uses a mix of the latest psychotherapeutic techniques, cutting-edge technology and scientifically-proven wellness practices to ensure holistic healing and instill healthy coping skills. Clients leave The Dawn with a renewed understanding of themselves, and a range of new interests that will leave them feeling energised and excited about what the future holds.
If you’re unsure about how to help a loved one with bipolar disorder, call The Dawn today and talk to us about safe, effective options.