Primary Article

Depression and Alcoholism: Clinical Considerations in Management



ABSTRACT: When alcohol abuse occurs with depression, both the substance abuse and the mood disorder necessitate treatment. These conditions may have some similar manifestations, making differential diagnosis difficult. Depressed alcoholics report more previous treatment for substance abuse, withdrawal symptoms, and marital problems than those without depression. They also incur greater loneliness, unemployment, and social ineptness. Depressive symptoms found commonly in this group include work inhibition, guilt, self-disgust, dissatisfaction, and social disinterest. A history of depression among relatives favors a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression. Distinguishing those alcoholics with specific depressive illness enhances the therapeutic efficacy. Alcohol abusers need treatment, but those with concomitant depression persisting well beyond detoxification often require antidepressant medications. In long-term care, lithium may reduce alcohol-related rehospitalizations. A strong doctor-patient relationship with or without pharmacotherapy promotes continuation in a therapeutic regimen. Involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous and disulfiram maintenance therapy are other deterrents to drinking relapse.

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