Pilot Study of Interpersonal Psychotherapy Versus Supportive Psychotherapy for Dysthymic Patients With Secondary Alcohol Abuse or Dependence

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Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) has demonstrated efficacy for depression but yielded negative results for substance disorders. Alcohol abuse frequently complicates mood disorders. This pilot study compared IPT with brief supportive psychotherapy (BSP) for dysthymic disorder and alcohol abuse. We hypothesized that effect sizes would suggest greater IPT efficacy for both diagnoses, despite limited statistical power. Subjects with primary DSM-IV dysthymic disorder and secondary alcohol abuse/dependence were randomly assigned 16 weeks of IPT (N = 14) or BSP (N = 12). Patients in both treatments reported improved depressive symptoms and alcohol abstinence. IPT had a large and BSP a moderate effect size in depression, whereas BSP had a moderate and IPT a small effect size in percentage of days abstinent. This pilot study offers initial data on IPT and BSP for comorbid chronic depression and alcohol abuse/dependence. Results suggest IPT may have specific antidepressant benefits for dysthymic alcoholic patients but not in treating alcoholism.

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