Original Research

Depression and Bipolar Disorders in Patients With Alcohol Use Disorders

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have a reported safety advantage in treating patients with a history of excessive alcohol intake. 44 Another advantage is that SSRIs are seldom abused and seldom lower seizure thresholds significantly. Deleterious effects of alcohol on motor skills or cognition are not potentiated. Adverse effects are usually mild, and overdoses are rarely dangerous.

Antidepressant medication decreased depression and diminished the amount of drinking in patients with depression who use alcohol. 45 In controlled research of patients with comorbid depression and alcohol dependence, fluoxetine reduced the severity of these conditions. Substantial reductions in depressive symptoms occurred during detoxification and washout in both groups. There was a strong relationship between depression and drinking among people with depression and AUD.

Desipramine can produce similar results, with positive antidepressant drug effects on depression and drinking. Therefore, pharmacotherapy is indicated for patients with depression who abuse ethanol. Research found that alcohol-dependent patients with depression responded to desipramine. 46 Desipramine yielded prolonged abstinence in patients with depression who were using alcohol but not in alcohol users without depression.

A study of imipramine use in actively drinking outpatients found decreased alcohol consumption only for those whose depression responded to treatment. 47 However, there was no influence on drinking outcome. Patients whose mood improved reported decreased alcohol consumption after imipramine therapy.


People with co-occurring depression and alcohol dependence are optimally treated with pharmacotherapies that address each condition. One investigation randomly assigned alcohol-dependent patients with depression to 14 weeks of treatment with sertraline 200 mg/d, naltrexone 100 mg/d, a combination of the drugs, or placebo. 48 The combination treatment produced the best rate of abstinence before a heavy drinking relapse. Also, fewer patients tended to be depressed in the final weeks of treatment when prescribed the combined regimen. Pharmacotherapy is the best approach for both depression and AUDs. ˜

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