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J Clin Psychiatry. 1987 Mar;48(3):98-101.

Primary and secondary depression in alcoholic men: an important distinction?


The primary-secondary depression distinction was investigated in male alcoholic patients from five Veterans Administration Medical Centers. The Psychiatric Diagnostic Interview, a DSM-III-compatible, criterion-referenced, structured interview, was administered to 565 patients admitted to the Alcoholism and Drug Treatment Units. Seventy-eight patients (13.8%) who exhibited only alcoholism and depression were divided into three subgroups based on the temporal onset of depression relative to the onset of alcoholism. Although few statistical differences were found, observed trends suggested more impairment in alcoholic patients with primary depression than in those with concurrent or secondary depression. The findings indicate that the primary-secondary depression distinction may have important clinical relevance and should be made whenever possible.

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