4.4 percent of the U.S. has bipolar disorder, as best we know. The global rate is about half that, though detection and diagnosis vary dramatically. Still, treatment for the millions of people with the at-times debilitating condition involves an impressive degree of trial and error amid arrays of pills.
This week in the journal Psychiatry Research, doctors at Brown University published their findings that more than a third of people with bipolar I disorder who were admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island were taking four or more psychiatric medications.
Dr. Lauren Weinstock, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior and the study's lead researcher, said the findings "reflect the enormous challenge of symptom management."
The study notes that between 1974 and 1996, patients treated at the National Institutes of Mental Health given three or more psychotropic medications increased thirteen-fold. In 1996 a journal article on the understanding at the time concluded, "Further research is necessary to formally evaluate whether these drug combinations are more effective than [a single drug]."