Aims To identify independent risk factors of the recurrence of alcohol dependence (AD) in people with a remitted disorder at baseline and persistence of AD in people with a current disorder at baseline.
Design Prospective cohort study with assessments at baseline and 2-year follow-up.
Setting Recruitment from the general population, primary care and out-patient mental health-care services.
Participants People with remitted AD (n = 253) and current AD (n = 135).
Measurements Recurrence and persistence of AD during 2-year follow-up were established using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) interview based on DSM-IV. Logistic regression analyses were performed to explore the role of potential risk factors (i.e. baseline severity of alcohol problems, measures for depression and anxiety, socio-demographics, vulnerability factors and addiction-related factors) as independent predictors of a negative course.
Findings Overall recurrence and persistence rates of AD were 14.6 and 40.7%, respectively, and were highly conditional on the severity of alcohol problems [adjusted odds ratio (OR) per standard deviation (SD) increase: OR = 3.64, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.21–6.01 and OR = 2.12, 95% CI: 1.32–3.40, respectively). Severity of depressive/anxiety symptoms was an additional independent predictor of the recurrence of AD, whereas male gender and high education were significant independent risk factors of the persistence of AD.
Conclusions Alcohol dependence has a dynamic course, with only moderate levels of diagnostic stability. Both recurrence and persistence of alcohol dependence are highly dependent on severity of baseline alcohol problems, whereas severity of depressive/anxiety symptoms predicts only the recurrence of alcohol dependence. Both measures may be useful in identifying people at an increased risk of a negative course and who could be targeted by prevention strategies.