Research is continuously being done to find new treatments for bipolar disorder. Lithium has been the standard treatment for over 50 years now, but with this disease being diagnosed more frequently, new treatments are continuously being looked for. Treatment is imperative for two reasons. First, a person suffering from bipolar disorder tends to die 9.2 years sooner than someone who doesn't have the disease. Second, 20% of those with bipolar disorder commit suicide. Although lithium does help, side effects plague approximately 75% of those who take this drug and they can be either major or minor.
In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Saphris tablets for adults afflicted with bipolar disorder. Saphris is an antipsychotic, although it falls into the atypical antipsychotic category. For this reason, a boxed warning comes with each prescription as the risk of death is higher in those with dementia-related psychosis. Therefore, Saphris can only be used with certain adults and is not the solution for everyone. Drowsiness, weight gain, dizziness, and movement disorders other than akathisia have been reported with the use of this medication.
Another treatment currently being studied is one that is typically used to treat seasickness. During a study on attention and memory improvement in patients suffering from depression, it was discovered that scopolamine improved overall mood and this effect could last for weeks or months. For this reason, scopolamine skin patches are now being used for the treatment of bipolar disorder.
Another accidental discovery has proven successful in the treatment of this disorder. When a brain scan was conducted on bipolar patients for the study of depression, many felt better when the brain scan was completed. As a result, scientists concluded that an improvement in symptoms could be brought on with the use of electric fields produced during a brain scan.
New research is being done into DNA and its connection with bipolar disorder. DNA analysis is used to identify variants of this disease. As this research moves forward, new treatments will likely be developed and hopefully a cure will be found so those with bipolar disorder may be symptom free forever.
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