Research & Resources

Subjective Response to Alcohol in Young Adults with Bipolar Disorder and Recent Alcohol Use: A Within-Subject Randomized Placebo-Controlled Alcohol Administration Study

This study investigated the differences in subjective response to alcohol in 50 young adults, half of whom had bipolar disorder and half of whom did not. Of the participants with bipolar disorder, 83 percent were taking medication to treat their disorder. All participants completed assessments of clinical history, alcohol expectancies, and recent alcohol use, and were dosed to a 0.08% breath alcohol concentration. The placebo condition occurred on a separate counterbalanced day. The study showed that participants with bipolar disorder reported greater stimulating effects and liking of alcohol than participants without bipolar disorder. While young adults with bipolar disorder reported anticipating feeling less “mellow/relaxed” when drinking, during both beverage conditions, they actually reported feeling more “mellow/relaxed.” Feeling more “mellow/relaxed” during the alcohol condition related to greater recent alcohol use in participants with bipolar disorder. Exploratory analyses suggested anticonvulsants and sedatives/antihistamines may relate to differences in subjective response to alcohol in people with bipolar disorder. These results suggest that young adults with bipolar disorder may have different alcohol expectancies and experiences of intoxication than young adults without bipolar disorder.

This paper, “Subjective response to alcohol in young adults with bipolar disorder and recent alcohol use: A within-subject randomized placebo-controlled alcohol administration study,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Link to full item