Alcohol Relapse & Anxiety

Alcoholics suffering from anxiety disorders have a higher rate of relapse and may need customized treatment, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

They studied 82 alcoholics, noting their anxiety diagnosis upon entering treatment as well as their drinking patterns four months later. They found patients with social phobia were most likely to resume drinking following treatment. Patients with panic disorder were most likely to suffer some type of residual dependence four months after alcohol treatment.

“This pattern suggests that panic disorder is a risk factor for a major relapse, and social phobia a risk factor for a minor relapse following alcohol treatment,” says Matt G. Kushner, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

According to the study, about 15 percent of the general population suffers from some type of anxiety disorder, but among alcoholics, that number can be as high as 50 percent.

Researchers note that although experts have long known alcoholism and anxiety disorders often co-exist, they don’t know what implications the dual disorders may have on standard alcoholism treatments.

“It appears that we must develop new treatments or modify existing treatments to better serve those with co-occurring anxiety and alcohol use disorders,” Kushner says.

The study authors note that it is still unclear exactly how anxiety disorders influence alcoholism and vice versa.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2005

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