Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone add-on therapy on mood, decision making and subsequent relapse of polydrug users

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A major problem in the treatment of addiction is predicting and preventing relapse following a rehabilitation program. Recently, in preclinical rodent studies dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) was found to markedly improve the resistance to drug reuse. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we examined the effect of DHEA on relapse rates in adult polydrug users taking part in a detoxification program enriched with intensive psychosocial interventions and aftercare. During treatment, participants (79 percent males, mean age 28) consumed DHEA (100 mg/day) or placebo daily for at least 30 days. Of the 121 initial volunteers, 64 participated for at least 1 month. While in treatment, DHEA reduced negative affect on the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (F = 4.25, P = 0.04). Furthermore, in a 16-month follow-up, we found that reuse rates in the DHEA condition were about a third compared with placebo (12 versus 38 percent; χ2 = 5.03, P = 0.02). DHEA treatment also resulted in an increase in DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) 1 month following treatment, and the level of DHEA-S predicted relapse in the follow-up assessment.

We examined the effect of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on relapse to drug usage in adult poly-drug users taking part in a detoxification program. Top pane: In a 16 months follow-up, we found that re-use rates in the DHEA condition were about a third compared to placebo (12% versus 38%). Bottom pane: Compared to their counter-parts, individuals who re-used drugs, had lower levels of DHEA-S following 1 month of treatment (t(34) = 2.34, p =.03). Error terms denote standard errors.

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