The Use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Treating Alcoholic Subtypes

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The usefulness of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat alcohol dependence continues to be a subject of debate. Most recently, investigations have tried to predict whether a given patient will respond to SSRIs in terms of reducing excessive alcohol drinking. The subtyping of alcohol-dependent individuals has ranged from relatively simple classifications (e.g., presence of comorbid depression) to more complex classifications (e.g., potential to have abnormalities in serotonin [5-HT] neurotransmission). Although only a few studies have been completed, results thus far indicate that alcoholic subgroups are differentially responsive to 5-HT pharmacotherapy with respect to drinking-related outcomes. In addition, there are preliminary results encouraging the use of SSRIs in combination with other medications for treating alcohol dependence in patients with and without comorbid psychiatric disorders. Information from these studies is promising, suggesting the need for further investigation.

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(suppl 20):26-31