Possible new ways in the pharmacological treatment of bipolar disorder and comorbid alcoholism

Jean Michel Azorin, Charles L. Bowden, Ricardo P. Garay, Giulio Perugi, Eduard Vieta, Allan H. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


About half of all bipolar patients have an alcohol abuse problem at some point of their lifetime. However, only one randomized, controlled trial of pharmacotherapy (valproate) in this patient population was published as of 2006. Therefore, we reviewed clinical trials in this indication of the last four years (using mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and other drugs). Priority was given to randomized trials, comparing drugs with placebo or active comparator. Published studies were found through systematic database search (PubMed, Scirus, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Science Direct). In these last four years, the only randomized, clinically relevant study in bipolar patients with comorbid alcoholism is that of Brown and colleagues (2008) showing that quetiapine therapy decreased depressive symptoms in the early weeks of use, without modifying alcohol use. Several other open-label trials have been generally positive and support the efficacy and tolerability of agents from different classes in this patient population. Valproate efficacy to reduce excessive alcohol consumption in bipolar patients was confirmed and new controlled studies revealed its therapeutic benefit to prevent relapse in newly abstinent alcoholics and to improve alcohol hallucinosis. Topiramate deserves to be investigated in bipolar patients with comorbid alcoholism since this compound effectively improves physical health and quality of life of alcohol-dependent individuals. In conclusion, randomized, controlled research is still needed to provide guidelines for possible use of valproate and other agents in patients with a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance abuse or dependence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Alcohol
  • Alcoholism
  • Bipolar disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Valproate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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