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Promising new treatment options for people with co-existing alcohol-use and psychiatric disorders

Individuals who have co-existing alcohol-use and psychiatric disorders must overcome a number of significant hurdles on their way to recovery: multiple health and social problems, double the stigma, a poor response to traditional treatments, a lack of joint treatment options, and a chronic cycle of treatment entry and re-entry. Symposium proceedings published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examine treatment options for this group, with a focus on four major psychiatric disorders: social anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

"The United States has typically separated services for mental health from those associated with addictions," said Charlene E. Le Fauve, symposium organizer and health scientist administrator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Because of this separation, when a person with comorbid disorders enters one type of care, they are inadequately treated for the other condition. If one disorder goes untreated, both usually worsen and additional complications occur, which can include serious medical problems such as liver disease, HIV, or other organ damage, suicide, criminalization, unemployment, and homelessness. As a result, some individuals with comordid disorders often require high-cost services such as inpatient and emergency room care."

Symposium speakers at the June 2003 Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida presented findings from recent trials and clinical studies:

  • A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) called paroxetine shows promise in the treatment of social anxiety in alcohol-dependent subjects.

    "Since this was the first study to examine the effectiveness of paroxetine in this dual-diagnosis population," said Le Fauve, "we need to see if the results can be replicated by other researchers before we can determine how promising the results are."

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