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Psychopharmacol Bull. 1998;34(1):117-21.

Fluoxetine versus placebo in depressed alcoholic cocaine abusers.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA 15213, USA.


To date, few double-blind, placebo-controlled studies with any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant in pure cocaine abusers or in cocaine abusers with comorbid disorders have been reported. In this study, 17 patients with DSM-III-R diagnoses of major depressive disorder, alcohol dependence, and cocaine abuse were included along with 34 non-cocaine-abusing depressed alcoholics in a pharmacotherapy trial involving the SSRI antidepressant fluoxetine. All 51 patients participated in a double-blind, parallel group study of fluoxetine versus placebo in depressed alcoholics. The principal focus of this article is the one-third of the depressed alcoholics who also abused cocaine and how the treatment response of those 17 patients compared with that of the 34 depressed alcoholics who did not abuse cocaine. During the study, no significant difference in treatment outcome was noted between the fluoxetine group (N = 8) and the placebo group (N = 9) for cocaine use, alcohol use, or depressive symptoms. In addition, no significant within-group improvement was noted for any of these outcome variables in either of the two treatment groups. Indeed, across the combined sample of 17 depressed alcoholic cocaine abusers, the mean Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score worsened slightly from 19 to 21 during the course of the study, and 71 percent of the patients continued to complain of suicidal ideations at the end of the study. The 17 cocaine-abusing depressed alcoholics showed a significantly worse outcome than the 34 non-cocaine abusing depressed alcoholics on the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) and BDI depression scales and on multiple measures of alcohol consumption. These findings suggest that comorbid cocaine abuse acts as a robust predictor of poor outcome for the drinking and the depressive symptoms of depressed alcoholics.

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