Background: Evidence supporting the use of serotonergic medications for the treatment of alcohol dependence is available from studies where pharmacotherapy targeted specific alcoholic subtypes. We previously established with Babor's alcohol typology that type A “lower risk/severity” alcoholics (n= 55) had better treatment response to 14 weeks of sertraline (200 mg/day) than placebo, and this was not found for type B “higher risk/severity” alcoholics (n= 45). The purpose of this study was to assess in this original study group whether treatment gains in the type A alcoholics were maintained or whether treatment outcomes changed for the type B alcoholics after discontinuing pharmacotherapy.
Methods: After the end of a 3-month course of 200 mg/day sertraline, the subjects were interviewed at several time points about their alcohol drinking, if any, using the timeline follow-back method. For 90% of the original study group, mixed effects and generalized estimating equation models were used to compare monthly drinking amounts over a 6-month posttreatment period with drinking amounts in the last month of treatment.
Results: We found that type A alcoholics who had been treated with sertraline, in contrast to placebo, maintained the good outcomes they had achieved during treatment for at least 6 months after pharmacotherapy. We found that type B alcoholics who had been treated with sertraline, in contrast to placebo, continued to show no advantage for pharmacotherapy in the 6 months after completing treatment. In addition, heavy drinking in type B alcoholics increased over the 6 months postpharmacotherapy in those initially treated with sertraline compared with placebo.
Conclusions: These data support the importance of considering alcohol subtype when pharmacologically treating alcohol dependence.