NaltrexoneDid you know? Naltrexone is an opioid receptor that is used as an antagonist for treating alcohol and opioid dependence. It assists in lowering cravings for drugs and alcohol. It has been found that combining naltrexone with the antidepressant sertraline (or Zoloft) is more effective than taking either drug alone in lowering relapse for people who are dependent on alcohol and are also dealing with depression.

Helen M. Pettinati, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and her teammates reported that when sertraline (Zoloft) and cognitive behavioral therapy are given, 53.7% of alcohol-dependent and depressed patients were sober for a median of 98 days,. Also, 21.3% to 27.5% of those who took either drug alone of placebo were clean and sober for fewer than 30 days.

Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study involved 170 patients who had both alcohol dependence and depression issues. Those who had other substance dependence issues or mental illnesses other than depression were not included in the study. The patients were randomly spread to either double placebo, sertraline at 200mg/day plus placebo, naltrexone at 100 mg/day plus placebo, or both drugs at the said doses for 14 weeks. All the patients also took part in cognitive behavioral therapy.

In order to measure alcohol dependence, the researchers looked at the percentage of patients who were absolutely sober during treatment as well as at the median and mean time when heavy drinking restarted, if applicable. It must be noted that the mean time period of sobriety in the combined-drug patients was much less than the median, 64 days (SD 40.8) as compared to 98 days. For other treatment groups, the means varied from 40 to 45 days.

Post combined treatment, 83.3% of patients were not clinically depressed anymore. With regards to alcohol consumption, after 90 days, 43% of patients in the combination group were sober, versus 12% to 21% of patients in other groups. Close to 54% of the people in the combination group didn’t drink heavily within the first 3 months compared with almost 30% in each of the other groups.

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