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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Apr 1;94(1-3):234-45. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.11.022. Epub 2008 Jan 22.

Age of onset and temporal sequencing of lifetime DSM-IV alcohol use disorders relative to comorbid mood and anxiety disorders.

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  • 1Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, CSR, Incorporated, 2107 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1000, Arlington, VA 22201-3085, United States.



Understanding the temporal sequencing of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and comorbid mood and anxiety disorders may help to disentangle the etiological underpinnings of comorbidity. Methodological limitations of previous studies, however, may have led to inconsistent or inconclusive findings.


To describe the temporal sequencing of the onset of AUDs relative to the onset of specific comorbid mood and anxiety disorders using a large, nationally representative survey.


AUD onset tended to follow the onset of 2 of the 9 mood and anxiety disorders (specific and social phobia). The onset of alcohol abuse tended to precede the onset of 5 of the 9 mood and anxiety disorders (GAD, panic, panic with agoraphobia, major depression, and dysthymia), whereas the onset of alcohol dependence tended to precede the onset of only 2 of the 9 mood and anxiety disorders (GAD and panic). Lag times between primary and subsequent disorders generally ranged from 7 to 16 years. Comorbid individuals whose alcohol dependence came after panic with agoraphobia, hypomania, and GAD had increased risk of persistent alcohol dependence.


Alcohol abuse, but not dependence, precedes many mood and anxiety disorders. If the primary disorder does in fact play a causative or contributing role in the development of the subsequent disorder, this role can best be described as "temporally distal." However, in assessing the risk for persistent alcohol dependence, clinicians should not only consider the type of comorbid mood/anxiety disorder, but also the temporal ordering of these disorders.

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