Predictors of drug addiction among individuals in alcohol rehab

Through the use of evidence based addiction treatment, predictors of drug addiction treatment can be identified.

Previous research shows that alcohol dependent individuals have an increased risk of developing dependence on illicit drugs and prescription drugs. For instance, the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey of 42,862 households in the United States found that individuals with lifetime alcohol use disorders were 9 to 17 times more likely to meet criteria for a lifetime substance abuse disorder. Studies suggest that approximately half of alcohol dependent individuals also have substance use disorders. This tends to complicate alcohol rehab and recovery. Thus, it is important to identify predictors of drug addiction among individuals in alcohol rehab so that comorbidities may be addressed in treatment. A team for researchers from the U.S. and Ireland carried out a cross-sectional study to identify predictors of drug dependence among individuals with alcohol dependence (Sintoy et. al., 2009).

The sample in the current study included 855 adults who participated in the Irish Affected Sib Pair Study of Alcohol Dependence. Participants received treatment in outpatient alcohol treatment programs or inpatient alcohol rehab programs and met DSM IV criteria for lifetime alcohol dependence. The researchers examined potential predictors for comorbid dependence on cannabis, sedatives, stimulants, cocaine, opioids, and hallucinogens. Potential predictors included age, gender, socioeconomic status, education, extraversion, neuroticism, novelty seeking, conduct disorder, major depressive disorder, age at onset of alcohol use, early illicit drug use, parental alcohol dependence, and nicotine dependence.

Results showed that the risk for dependence on several different classes of drugs was increased by nicotine dependence, drug use before the age of 19, and depression before substance use. Cannabis dependence was predicted by male gender, younger age, primary depression, nicotine dependence, earlier age at first alcohol use, and early drug use. Sedative dependence was predicted by higher neuroticism scores, conduct disorder, primary depression, nicotine dependence, early drug use, and maternal alcohol dependence. Stimulant dependence was predicted by male gender, younger age, conduct disorder, primary depression, nicotine dependence, and early drug use. Cocaine dependence was predicted by early drug use. Opioid dependence was predicted by primary depression and early drug use. Hallucinogen dependence was predicted by fewer years of education, early drug use, and maternal alcohol dependence.

The results suggest that individuals in alcohol rehab who smoke, had major depression before substance use, or used drugs early have increased risk of comorbid drug dependence along with alcohol dependence (AD). Individuals with these risk factors may benefit from more thorough screening to identify comorbid substance used disorders (SUDs) in alcohol rehab.

“It is important to note that SUDs are likely to complicate AD treatment,” the researchers point out. “Consistent with prior findings, we found that drug dependence was associated with more severe AD. Individuals with drug dependence reported more DSM-IV AD symptoms and drank larger quantities of alcohol during their heaviest drinking period than did those without SUDs. Therefore, a thorough evaluation should be conducted so that SUDs can be identified and treated along with AD.”

An individualized treatment plan can be created in alcohol rehab to align one’s goals with a better quality of life.

Sintov ND, Kendler KS, Walsh D, Patterson DG, Prescott CA. Predictors of illicit substance dependence among individuals with alcohol dependence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2009; 70(2): 269-278.