Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Target Self-Medication of Mood and Anxiety Symptoms

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Target Self-Medication of Mood and Anxiety Symptoms

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO--Drinking to alleviate mood or anxiety symptoms is responsible for 12%-16% of cases of new-onset alcohol use disorder in affected individuals, Jitender Sareen, MD, said at the annual conference of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Similarly, the use of prescription or nonprescription drugs to self-medicate mood or anxiety symptoms accounts for 20% of new-onset drug use disorders in this population, added Dr. Sareen, professor and head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

He was a coauthor of two landmark longitudinal epidemiologic studies that support the concept of self-medication as a direct causal mechanism that explains a phenomenon often observed in clinical practice: namely, the high rate of comorbid mood or anxiety disorders accompanied by an alcohol or substance use disorder.

"The clinical implication is that questions about self-medication with alcohol or drugs should be included in the assessment of patients with anxiety and mood symptoms, because self-medication is a marker of higher likelihood of psychopathology. And psychologic therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy could prevent onset of substance use disorders by teaching patients emotion regulation skills to manage their mood and anxiety symptoms without self-medication," Dr. Sareen said.

The first longitudinal study of the role of self-medication in the development of comorbid anxiety and substance use disorders included 34,653 nationally representative adults who completed both the initial face-to-face National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions in 2001-2002 and a follow-up survey conducted 3 years later.

During the 3-year follow-up period, 9.7% of subjects developed a new-onset anxiety disorder, 5.9% of participants newly met DSMIV diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, and 2% developed a new-onset drug use disorder.

Among subjects who met the criteria for an anxiety disorder at baseline and at that time also reported self-medication with alcohol, 12.6% developed an incident alcohol use disorder during follow-up. Among those who self-medicated with drugs, 10.4% developed a drug use disorder.

In contrast, only 4.7% of subjects with a baseline anxiety disorder who did not self-medicate with alcohol at baseline developed an incident alcohol use disorder. And an incident drug use disorder occurred in 1. …

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