September 21, 2000


UCSD Psychopharmacology Research Program has been chosen as one of 20 sites nationwide, and the only location in Southern California, to offer a new treatment program for manic-depression, a disorder that affects about 2 million Americans.

Patients who participate in the program also will become part of a large National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study designed to improve the treatment of manic-depression by determining the best possible therapies for the condition, which is also known as bipolar disorder.

UCSD will enroll 500 patients for a minimum of three years in the new program, Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD). All participants will receive a new comprehensive bipolar disorder assessment designed by an international team of specialists, educational materials written specifically for patients with manic depression, and a specially designed medication treatment. Patients will be offered a variety of innovative therapies that may include novel approaches to drug therapy, psychotherapies specifically designed for manic depressive patients, and/or new alternative therapies. The program has been designed so that therapists and patients can utilize a systematic approach to treatment that includes the flexibility to try new therapies as needed.

Nationwide, 5,000 patients will be enrolled in STEP-BD, thus allowing the participating medical centers and the NIMH to assess the symptomatic, functional and economic outcomes of the various treatments.

Manic-depression is a mental illness where a person’s mood usually swings from overly “high” and irritable to sad and hopeless, then back again, with periods of normal mood in between. Manic-depression typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades. Like other serious illnesses, manic-depression is also hard on spouses, family members, friends and employers.

Mark Rapaport, M.D., UCSD associate professor of psychiatry and staff physician at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Health Care System, is the director and principal investigator of the San Diego program.

“Fortunately, almost all people who suffer from manic-depression can obtain substantial stabilization of their mood swings,” he says. “Because of the complexity of this condition, however, it sometimes takes a while to determine the most effective mix of therapies for specific symptoms. In this program, we’ll be able to tailor the treatment and document its effectiveness. The data will be shared nationally and become part of the nationwide NIMH treatment protocol geared to specific symptoms.”


For more information on the STEP-BD in San Diego, call the UCSD Psychopharmacology Research Program, (858) 622-6136 .

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Media Contact: Sue Pondrom