BACKGROUND: Depression and alcohol dependence are frequently found to co-exist but the relationship between these disorders requires further elucidation. This study tested several hypotheses related to the relevance of whether the diagnosis of depression was made before admission or after detoxification in the current episode for those with alcohol dependence.
METHOD: The Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (SADS) was administered to obtain Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) on 82 randomly selected alcohol dependent in-patients. Alcohol-related (Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire (SADQ), alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems), socio-demographic variables and treatment for depression were assessed.
RESULTS: For the episode of drinking which led to admission, a diagnosis of major depression was found in the majority of patients (67%). Once detoxification from alcohol took place, only the minority (13%) met criteria for major depression.
CONCLUSIONS: It is suggested that depression is largely associated with the episode of drinking which led to admission in patients who are dependent on alcohol and may be due to the effect of chronic alcohol intoxication. Socio-demographic and alcohol-related characteristics appear to bear little relation to the presence of depression. Clinicians exercise appropriate judgement in not prescribing antidepressant treatments to patients whose depression may remit with abstinence from alcohol.
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