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J Addict Dis. 2003;22(2):91-103.

Treatment of sleep disturbance in alcohol recovery: a national survey of addiction medicine physicians.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brown University School of Medicine and Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI 02903, USA.


Sleep disturbance is common among patients in recovery from alcoholism and can precipitate relapse. Though sleep complaints are commonly managed with medication, little is known about their management among recovering alcoholic patients. We performed a postal survey of a self-weighted, random systematic sample of 503 members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to examine addiction medicine physicians' medical management of sleep disturbance among patients in early recovery from alcoholism. After 3 mailings, 311 (62%) responded. Of responents, 64% have offered pharmacological treatment to an insomniac, alcoholic patient in the first 3 months after detoxification, but only 22% offered medication to more than half of such patients. Trazodone was the preferred therapy, chosen first by 38% of respondents, followed by other sedating antidepressants (12%), and antihistamines (12%). The mean duration of therapy for trazodone and other sedating antidepressants exceeded one month. Experts in addiction medicine appear reluctant to prescribe medication to sleep-disturbed patients in early recovery from alcoholism. When they do prescribe, trazodone, other sedating antidepressants and antihistamines are favored, despite limited evidence for or against this indication. Although the treatment of disordered sleep among alcoholic patients in early recovery may have merit to prevent relapse, controlled studies of these sleep agents are needed.

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