Objective: Empirical evidence has only weakly supported antidepressant treatment for patients with co-occurring depression and alcohol dependence. While some studies have demonstrated that antidepressants reduce depressive symptoms in individuals with depression and alcohol dependence, most studies have not found antidepressant treatment helpful in reducing excessive drinking in these patients. The authors provide results from a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that evaluated the efficacy of combining approved medications for depression (sertraline) and alcohol dependence (naltrexone) in treating patients with both disorders.
Method: A total of 170 depressed alcohol-dependent patients were randomly assigned to receive 14 weeks of treatment with sertraline (200 mg/day [N=40]), naltrexone (100 mg/day [N=49]), the combination of sertraline plus naltrexone (N=42), or double placebo (N=39) while receiving weekly cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Results: The sertraline plus naltrexone combination produced a higher alcohol abstinence rate (53.7%) and demonstrated a longer delay before relapse to heavy drinking (median delay=98 days) than the naltrexone (abstinence rate: 21.3%; delay=29 days), sertraline (abstinence rate: 27.5%; delay=23 days), and placebo (abstinence rate: 23.1%; delay=26 days) groups. The number of patients in the medication combination group not depressed by the end of treatment (83.3%) approached significance when compared with patients in the other treatment groups. The serious adverse event rate was 25.9%, with fewer reported with the medication combination (11.9%) than the other treatments.
Conclusions: More depressed alcohol-dependent patients receiving the sertraline plus naltrexone combination achieved abstinence from alcohol, had delayed relapse to heavy drinking, reported fewer serious adverse events, and tended to not be depressed by the end of treatment.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00004554.