UT Southwestern researcher studies causes, treatment of bipolar disease coupled with drug abuse

DALLAS Sept. 11, 2002 The lasting effects of Sept. 11 on everyday citizens caused Dr. Vicki Nejtek, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, to wonder how terrorism's aftermath impacts her vulnerable research population -- patients suffering from dual diagnosis.

Dual-diagnosis psychiatric patients suffer from both mental illness and drug abuse or dependence, Nejtek explained. The UT Southwestern researcher is studying bipolar disorder coupled with stimulant abuse.

"Bipolar disorder, which has alternating cycles of depression and mania and/or extreme irritability, may well be associated with the highest rates of substance abuse of any psychiatric illness," she said.

Nejtek, head of dual-diagnosis research, said bipolar patients have a rate of substance abuse that is as high as 60 percent; cocaine abuse is reportedly as high as 30 percent. Bipolar patients who are also substance abusers require increased hospitalization and have poorer psychiatric recovery and treatment response than patients who have bipolar disorder alone, she said.

Dr. Saundra Gilfillan, associate professor of psychiatry and medical director of emergency psychiatry services at Parkland Memorial Hospital, said cases of dual-diagnosis patients coming into the emergency room with severe anxiety have reached new levels since the events of Sept. 11.

"This last year we have seen more dual-diagnosis patients coming into the psych ER than ever before," she said. "Also, we have seen more teen-agers with either psychiatric or behavior-related problems, besides drug and alcohol use, than ever before."

Nejtek is overseeing two research projects involving dual-diagnosis psychiatric patients. The Stanley Medical Research Institute recently awarded $833,500 to study medications in bipolar patients who also abuse or are addicted to stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy. A second study, partially funded by the

Contact: Ann Harrell
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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