A Prospective Comparison of Bipolar I and II Subjects with and without Comorbid Cannabis Use Disorders from the COGA Dataset

Brain Sci. 2023 Jul 27;13(8):1130. doi: 10.3390/brainsci13081130.


Objective: The comorbidity of alcohol and substance use disorders among persons with bipolar disorder is elevated, as indicated by epidemiological and clinical studies. Following alcohol use, cannabis is the most frequently used and abused illicit substance among bipolar individuals, and such use may lead to comorbid cannabis use disorders (CUD). Previous research indicated that CUDs were related to a more severe course of bipolar disorder and higher rates of other comorbid alcohol and substance use disorders. Few studies, however, have conducted longitudinal research on this comorbidity. The aim of this study is to investigate the influence of CUD on the course of bipolar I and II individuals during a 5-year follow-up.

Methods: The characteristics of bipolar disorder, cannabis use disorders, and other alcohol and substance use disorders, as well as comorbid mental disorders, were assessed using a standardized semi-structured interview (SSAGA) at both baseline and the 5-year follow-up. N = 180 bipolar I and II patients were subdivided into groups of with and without comorbid cannabis use disorders (CUD).

Results: Of the 77 bipolar I and 103 bipolar II patients, n = 65 (36.1%) had a comorbid diagnosis of any CUD (DSM-IV cannabis abuse or dependence). Comorbid bipolar patients with CUD had higher rates of other substance use disorders and posttraumatic stress disorders, more affective symptoms, and less psychosocial functioning at baseline and at 5-year follow-up. In contrast to previously reported findings, higher rates of anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder complications (e.g., mixed episodes, rapid cycling, and manic or hypomanic episodes) were not found. The effect of CUD on other substance use disorders was confirmed using moderation analyses.

Conclusions: A 5-year prospective evaluation of bipolar patients with and without CUD confirmed previous investigations, suggesting that the risk of other substance use disorders is significantly increased in comorbid individuals. CUD has a moderation effect, while no effect was found for other mental disorders. Findings from this study and previous research may be due to the examination of different phenotypes (Cannabis use vs. CUD) and sample variation (family study vs. clinical and epidemiological populations).

Keywords: PTSD; alcohol and substance use disorders; anxiety disorders; baseline- and follow-up analysis; bipolar I and II disorders; cannabis use disorders; comorbidity.