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Comorbid Psychiatric Diagnosis Predicts Three-Year Outcomes in Alcoholics: A Posttreatment Natural History Study

Henry R. Kranzler, Frances K. del Boca, Bruce J. Rounsaville

Objective: To examine the impact of three common comorbid disorders on a variety of outcomes 3 years after inpatient alcoholism treatment. Method: Using a prospective cohort design, we examined the frequency and intensity of drinking, the severity of alcohol-related symptoms, global alcohol-related outcome and severity of psychiatric symptoms in a group of 225 (74% male) alcoholics. At the index admission, patients were categorized as to the lifetime presence of major depression, antisocial personality disorder (ASP) and drug abuse/dependence. Multiple linear regression was used hierarchically to step in blocks of predictors in a logical sequence: (1) gender and age; (2) number of comorbid psychiatric diagnoses and the presence or absence of the three individual comorbid psychiatric disorders; and (3) the interaction between gender and each of the three diagnostic groups. Results: Men showed greater intensity of drinking, more alcohol-related symptoms and poorer global alcohol-related outcome. Younger patients also showed more alcohol-related symptoms. Although the number of comorbid diagnoses was correlated with both the intensity of drinking and the severity of psychopathology, each of the specific comorbid diagnoses accounted for unique variance in outcome. Comorbid drug abuse/dependence was associated with more drinking days and more alcohol-related symptoms. In contrast, the presence of comorbid major depression was associated with lower intensity of drinking. Finally, ASP was associated with poorer global alcohol-related outcome. Conclusions: Outcomes 3 years after alcoholism treatment are related to the presence of specific lifetime comorbid psychiatric diagnoses. Since such disorders may positively influence the course of alcoholism, trials of clinical interventions that target these disorders are warranted. (J. Stud. Alcohol 57: 619-626, 1996)