Alcohol consumption and the use of antidepressants

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Abstract

Background

The purpose of the present study is to explore the relation between use of antidepressants and level of alcohol consumption among depressed and nondepressed men and women.

Methods

Random-digit dialling and computer-assisted telephone interviewing were used to survey a sample of 14 063 Canadian residents, aged 18–76 years. The survey included measures of quantity and frequency of drinking, the World Health Organization's Composite International Diagnostic Interview measure of depression, and a question as to whether respondents had used antidepressants during the past year.

Results

Overall, depressed respondents drank more alcohol than did nondepressed respondents. This was not true, however, for depressed men who used antidepressants; they consumed a mean of 414 drinks during the preceding year, versus 579 drinks for depressed men who did not use antidepressants and 436 for nondepressed men. For women, the positive relation between depression and heavier alcohol consumption held true regardless of their use of antidepressants: 264 drinks during the preceding year for depressed women who used antidepressants; 235, for depressed women who did not use antidepressants; and 179, for nondepressed women.

Interpretation

Results of this cross-sectional study are consistent with a possible beneficial effect of antidepressant use upon drinking by depressed men. Further research is needed, however, to assess whether this finding results from drug effects or some other factor, and to ascertain why the effect was found among men but not women.

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