The Role of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Reducing Alcohol Consumption.

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Preclinical and clinical studies demonstrated an inverse relationship between serotonergic activity and alcohol consumption. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) fluoxetine, citalopram, and fluvoxamine have subsequently been examined for their ability to reduce alcohol consumption in alcoholic subjects. Interindividual variability in response to SSRIs is large, with reductions in alcohol consumption ranging from 10% to more than 70%. Several factors, including gender, alcoholic subtype, and extent of drinking, appear to affect the treatment efficacy of the SSRIs. A significant challenge for researchers is to identify the subject variables that predict treatment response, providing a basis for guiding alcohol-dependent individuals to the treatment that is most likely to be effective for them. This article reviews the available clinical studies, discusses possible mechanisms of action for the SSRIs, and describes a model for predicting treatment responses in alcoholic subjects.

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(suppl 20):18-25