Do comorbid anxiety disorders in alcohol-dependent patients need specific treatment to prevent relapse?

Annemiek Schadé*, Loes A. Marquenie, Anton J.L.M. Van Balkom, Edwin De Beurs, Richard Van Dyck, Wim Van Den Brink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Aims: It has been repeatedly stated that comorbid anxiety disorders predict poor outcome of alcoholism treatment. This statement is based on the high comorbidity of alcohol use disorders and anxiety disorders, and the negative influence of other comorbid psychiatric disorders on the outcome of treatment of alcohol dependence. This review focuses on outcome results of alcohol-dependent patients with a comorbid anxiety disorder. We try to answer the question whether anxiety disorders should be treated in alcohol-dependent patients to improve outcome results in alcoholism treatment. Methods: In a search through Pubmed, Psychinfo and Cochrane, we found only 12 articles on this subject. We distinguished three perspectives: (1) studies on the predictive value of comorbid anxiety disorders on the outcome of alcoholism treatment; (2) studies on the improvement of abstinence rates and anxiety symptoms by offering pharmacological treatment for comorbid anxiety disorders; (3) studies on psychotherapeutic treatment. Results: Most studies showed methodological limitations. Only one high quality study showed that comorbid anxiety disorders predict poor outcome of the treatment of alcohol dependence. Conclusions: We cannot conclude that comorbid anxiety disorders in alcohol-dependent patients need a specific treatment to prevent relapse. However, medication and perhaps cognitive behavioural therapy can be useful in alcohol-dependent patients with a comorbid anxiety disorder to reduce anxiety symptoms. Methodological implications for further research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-262
Number of pages8
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2003

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