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Keywords:

  • alcohol dependence;
  • anticonvulsants;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • craving;
  • lamotrigine

Background:  Bipolar disorder is significantly associated with alcohol use disorders. Anticonvulsant drugs are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and they have also been used to treat alcohol dependence. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate tolerance and safety of lamotrigine in a dual-diagnosis population presenting bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence. Open-label lamotrigine was examined in 28 outpatients with DSM-IV bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence. Lamotrigine was added to existing medication regimens.

Method:  Lamotrigine was started at a dose of 25 mg/day and titrated to a maximum dose of 300 mg/day. Subjects received a baseline evaluation which included a Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID) and weekly assessments for 12 weeks with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS), Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), Severity of Alcohol Dependence Scale (SADS), a Visual Analogue Scale for Craving severity (VASC), and alcohol consumption. The concentration of carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) was used as an indirect measure of alcohol consumption. The sample consisted of 18 men and 10 women diagnosed with alcohol dependence and bipolar disorder I (n = 21) or bipolar disorder II (n = 7), with a mean age of 36.5 ± 7.7 years.

Results:  Significant improvement was observed in HAM-D, YMRS, and BPRS scores (p < 0.01). Craving and CDT also significantly decreased (p < 0.001). Lamotrigine was well tolerated with no dropout subjects due to adverse events.

Conclusion:  Lamotrigine is safe and well tolerated in this sample and associated with improvement in mood, alcohol craving and alcohol consumption. A placebo-controlled study would be of interest.