Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and depressive disorders often co-occur. Findings on the effects of major depressive disorder (MDD) or depressive symptoms on posttreatment alcohol relapse are controversial. The study's aim is to examine the association of MDD and depressive symptoms with treatment outcomes after residential AUD programs. In a naturalistic-prospective, multisite study with 12 residential AUD treatment programs in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, 64 patients with AUD with MDD, 283 patients with AUD with clinically significant depressive symptoms at admission, and 81 patients with AUD with such problems at discharge were compared with patients with AUD only on alcohol use, depressive symptoms, and treatment service utilization. MDD was provisionally identified at admission and definitively defined at discharge. Whereas patients with MDD did not differ from patients with AUD only at 1-year follow-up, patients with AUD with clinically significant depressive symptoms had significantly shorter time-to-first-drink and a lower abstinence rate. These patients also had elevated AUD indices and treatment service utilization for psychiatric disorders. Our results suggest that clinically significant depressive symptoms are a substantial risk factor for relapse so that it may be important to treat them during and after residential AUD treatment programs.
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