Depressed Alcoholics Benefit From Combination Treatment

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Treatment with both an antidepressant and naltrexone increases likelihood that alcoholics with major depression will stop drinking, reports a study published March 15 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The Study

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a 14-week study of patients suffering from both major depression and alcohol dependence. Patients were provided with one of four treatments:

  • a combination treatment consisting of both the alcoholism drug naltrexone and the antidepressant Zoloft;
  • treatment with Zoloft only;
  • treatment with naltrexone only;
  • or a placebo.

54% of the patients who received the combination treatment were able to stop drinking, while only 21%-28% of patients in the other groups were able to stop. Moreover, those who received the combination treatment were able to maintain their sobriety 4 times as long as those in the other groups.

What Does This Mean?

For many people, alcoholism and depression occur together. Sometimes those with major depression self-medicate with alcohol, while other times depression is a consequence of alcoholism. Either way, the combination of depression and alcoholism is common and has a tendency to make both disorders worse. Because both naltrexone and Zoloft are approved by the FDA, this combination treatment has immediate applications for people who suffer from both depression and alcohol dependence and may improve the odds that they will be able to stop drinking.


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