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Comorbidity of Alcohol Use Disorder and Depression

A Case Report and Review of the Literature

Tseng, Irene; Ganz, Alexis MA; Mitton, Andrew G. MD; Tsuang, John MD

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: September 2017 - Volume 16 - Issue 3 - p 121–128
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000106
Case Report

Background: Alcohol use disorders and depression frequently occur hand-in-hand. Having one of these diagnoses increases the possibility of developing a diagnosis for the other. Despite this, alcohol still rank among the most common abused substances in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that for adults, ∼11.2 million adults (∼7% of the US population) are diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. According to the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, among these people who have an alcohol use disorder, 20.5% of this population also has a diagnosis for major depressive disorder.

Methods and Findings: We will first present a case report of a woman who exemplifies the comorbid diagnoses of alcohol use disorder and depression. Her clinical course is described in this review. We survey the literature using medline, PubMed, Google Scholar to search for studies that addressed the treatment options for these disorders. In this review, current pharmacological, psychological, and social treatments will be discussed for this particular patient population.

Conclusions: Pharmacological clinical trials published in literature typically measures several things: if the treatment was able to decrease depressive symptoms, if the treatment was able to decrease alcohol consumption, and if the treatment was able to prevent relapse. Current studies published have looked at the effects of using different selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, by itself or in combination with anticraving medication to decrease depressive symptoms, and alcohol consumption. However, it is unlikely that a specific antidepressant can reduce depression and also decrease alcohol consumption in dual diagnoses patients; instead, most literature supports using a combination of both antidepressants and other pharmacological agents (such as naltrexone or disulfiram) to treat depression symptoms and alcohol problems in a dual diagnoses patient. Furthermore, combining these medications with psychotherapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Motivational Enhancement Therapy will yield positive results.

Department of Psychiatry, Harbor/UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA

The patient presented in this paper is a real patient; however, details about her life have been altered to maintain anonymity.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Irene Tseng, Department of Psychiatry, Harbor/UCLA Medical Center, 1000 West Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90509 (e-mail:

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