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Divalproex Sodium in Substance Abusers With Mood Disorder.

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(12):916-921

Background: Substance abuse is a common comorbid illness in patients with mood disorders. Little has been written about the pharmacologic treatment of patients with affective lability and co-occurring substance abuse, however. The following report will describe clinical experience using divalproex sodium in substance-abusing patients with mood disorder.

Method: Twenty patients admitted to an intermediate-care inpatient substance abuse program were diagnosed with comorbid mood disorder (according to DSM-IV criteria) and treated with divalproex sodium in an open-label, naturalistic trial with no blind. All patients were followed clinically and were assessed using the Clinical Global Impressions scale (CGI) and laboratory studies.

Results: Seven patients referred while on divalproex treatment continued to exhibit improved mood. Eleven others had at least 1 week of follow-up, and 10 of these also showed improvement. In 13 cases, divalproex was used safely with other psychiatric medications. Two patients complained of slight tremor, 1 of whom was also taking fluoxetine. Fifteen of 17 patients in whom biochemistry and hematology laboratory studies were completed had unremarkable results; 2 other patients had pretreatment abnormalities, which worsened over the course of treatment. Mean plasma valproate level was 58.53 micrograms/mL. Mean length of follow-up was 38 days. Mean period of abstinence prior to starting medication was 48 days. Some patients reported decreased cravings, and, by self-report, all patients remained abstinent.

Conclusion: This report suggests that divalproex sodium is efficacious and safe, both alone and in combination with other psychiatric medications, in treating substance-abusing patients with mood disorder.