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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2003 Sep;22(3):295-7.

Comparison of disulfiram and placebo in treatment of alcohol dependence of adolescents.

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  • 1Christian Doppler Clinic, A-5020, Salzburg, Austria.


About 50% of alcoholic patients relapse within 3 months of treatment. Previous studies have suggested that disulfiram may help to prevent such relapse. The aim of our study was to assess the efficacy and safety of long-term disulfiram treatment in alcohol dependence of adolescents. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study we recruited 26 adolescents, aged 16-19 years, with chronic or episodic alcohol dependence. Patients were allocated treatment randomly with disulfiram (200 mg daily) or placebo for 90 days. Patients were assessed on the day treatment started and on days 30 and 90 by interview, self-report, questionnaire and laboratory screening. Patients were classified as abstinent, relapsing or non-attending. Time to first treatment failure (relapse or non-attendance) was the primary outcome measure. The disulfiram (n=13) and placebo (n=13) groups were well matched in terms of baseline demographic and alcohol-related variables. Thirteen disulfiram-treated and 13 placebo-treated patients completed the treatment phase; seven (1 vs. 6) relapsed, five (3 vs. 2) refused to continue treatment, three (1 vs. 2) had concurrent illness and two (1 vs. 1) had adverse side effects. At the end of treatment, seven disulfiram-treated and two placebo-treated patients had been abstinent continuously (p=0.0063). Mean cumulative abstinence duration was significantly greater in the disulfiram group than in the placebo group [68.5 (SD 37.5) vs. 29.7 (19.0) days; p=0.012]. Apart from occasional diarrhoea, there was no difference in side effects between groups. In some cases, disulfiram may be an effective and well-tolerated pharmacological adjunct to psychosocial and behavioural treatment programmes for treatment of adolescent alcohol-dependent patients.

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