Researchers Determine Rates of Self-Medication in Mood Disorders Patient

Self-medication, defined as using alcohol and/or drugs to alleviate emotional distress, is a dangerous habit for patients suffering from mood disorders. Although rates of self-medication have previously been found to be fairly high in mood disorders patients, research on this topic has been at a minimum.

James Bolton, MD, and colleagues from the University of Manitoba in Canada, studied 43,093 patients >18 years of age enrolled in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, criteria was used to determine the self-medication prevalence rates for patients suffering from bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, dysthymia, and major depressive disorder (MDD).

Bolton and colleagues found 2,184 patients had dysthymia, 7,822 had MDD, 1,546 had bipolar I disorder, 538 bipolar II disorder, and 8,420 had any mood disorder. Of these patients, ~24% of patients with mood disorders were self-medicated with drugs and/or alcohol. Self-medication prevalence rates by disease state were as follows: 41% of bipolar I disorder patients; ~35% of bipolar II disorders patients; ~23% of dysthymic patients; and ~23% of MDD patients.  Regarding comorbidities, the researchers found significant amounts of panic disorder and dependent personality disorder in men and high rates of generalized anxiety disorder and dependent personality disorder in women.

Due to the high rates of self-medication found in bipolar I disorder, the researchers further reviewed this subset of the overall patient population. They found that self-medication was at its highest rates during depressive episodes (~41% for bipolar I patients and ~32% for bipolar II patients). They also found patients self-medicating ~29% of the time during manic episodes and ~8% of the time during hypomanic symptoms.

 Bolton and colleagues believe that it is up to the clinician to monitor each patient’s medication misuse as well as drug and alcohol intake during treatment. They also recommend that the clinician inquire as to each patient’s reason for using drugs and alcohol during treatment.  (J Affect Disorder. 2008; epub ahead of print) –CDN

Smoking Cessation More Difficult for Patients with ADHD

For patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), rates of tobacco use are higher than in the general population, and smoking cessation is less likely for ADHD patients than for those without the disorder. Prior studies have shown that use of tobacco and nicotine is not only related to the presence of ADHD but may also differ in presentation depending on the increased presence of inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, which comprise the core symptomology of ADHD. Additional studies into ADHD symptoms and smoking cessation have not been conducted. An improved understanding of the associations between ADHD subtypes, tobacco use, and smoking cessation could lead to improved smoking cessation and decreased tobacco-related mortality for patents with ADHD.

Lirio Covey, PhD, and colleagues at the Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City evaluated smoking cessation patterns of 583 adult smokers, who were treated with bupropion and nicotine patch during the 8-week study period. They sought to determine if the separate domains of ADHD—inattention or hyperactivity—affected rates of smoking cessation differently. 

All patients were evaluated for ADHD using the ADHD Current Symptom Scale. Two subtypes of ADHD were identified among all patients with the disorder: ADHD with predominate inattentive symptoms (ADHD-inattention) and ADHD with predominate hyperactive/impulsive symptoms with or without inattention (ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity with or without inattention). To aid smoking cessation, patients were treated with bupropion, nicotine patch, and cessation counseling. Study outcome was rate of smoking abstinence, which was measured by amount of expired carbon monoxide.

Covey and colleagues found that among all patients, 540 showed no symptoms of ADHD, 20 patients met criteria for ADHD-inattention, and 23 patients met criteria for ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity with or without inattention. When compared to patients without ADHD, patients with both subtypes of the disorder showed lower rates of smoking cessation. The authors also found that patients with ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity with or without inattention had the lowest rates of smoking cessation when compared to patients without ADHD or with ADHD-inattention. The proportion of patients without ADHD or with ADHD-inattention who abstained from smoking were also similar (55% compared to 54%).

In addition, the treatment approach of bupropion and nicotine patch was more helpful for patients with ADHD-inattention than those with ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity with or without inattention. Study data also found that the frequency of past major depressive disorder was highest in patients with ADHD-inattention, and the frequency of past alcohol dependence was highest in patients with ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity with or without inattention.

They concluded that more research is necessary for an improved understanding of ADHD, particularly the ADHD-hyperactivity/impulsivity with or without inattention subtype, and tobacco use, which could lead to early prevention of one or both of these conditions. Prior studies have shown that nicotine improves attentiveness and other performance deficits for patients with ADHD and may be used as a form of self-medication for patients, although more data in needed to understand the mechanism behind ADHD and tobacco use.  

Funding for this research was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (Nicotine Tob Res. 2008;10(12):1717-1725.) –CP

Psychiatric Diagnoses and Treatment Seeking in College Students: Findings from the NESARC

Psychiatric disorders are not uncommon among young, college-aged adults. Those attending college, however, are less likely to seek psychiatric treatment than their non-college-attending peers. This finding was reported in a recent study that assessed the differences in 1-year prevalence of psychiatric disorders, sociodemograhic correlates, and rates of treatment in United States college students, compared to peers not attending college for at least the previous year. Carlos Blanco, MD, PhD, at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues used data from the large (N=43,093) National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions to conduct their subsample analyses.

The subsample comprised 2,188 college attending, and 2,904 non-college-attending adults 19–25 years of age. Approximately 50% of the subsample had at least one Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition psychiatric disorder in the previous year. The unadjusted risk for alcohol use disorders was significantly greater for college students (odds ratio=1.25; 95% CI, 1.04–1.50) than non-college-attending peers, but not after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics (adjusted odds ratio=1.19; 95% CI, 0.98–1.44).

Diagnosis of a drug use disorder, nicotine dependence, or tobacco use were all significantly less likely to occur in those attending college, although non-college-attending subjects were more likely to receive relevant psychiatric treatment—especially regarding alcohol-use disorders.

The authors note that, overall, <25% of those with a psychiatric disorder sought treatment within the year preceding the survey. This statistic suggests that a more centralized mental healthcare structure may be helpful for college and university campuses.

This study is supported by grants from the American Foundation for Suicide  Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. (Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(12):1429-1437). –LS

Association Between MDD and Adverse Cardiovascular Events May Be Due to Changes in Patient Behavior

Despite lacking data on causality, researchers have long established that major depressive disorder (MDD) and other depressive disorders increase the risk of cardiovascular disease for physically healthy patients as well as increase the likelihood of recurring adverse cardiac events for patients with existing cardiovascular disease. Understanding the causality of the relationship between MDD and adverse cardiovascular symptoms would allow for primary care physicians (PCPs), psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals to develop treatments that would slow or stop the progression of cardiovascular disease in patients with MDD.

Mary A. Whooley, MD, of the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco, California, and colleagues, evaluated 1,017 patients with stable coronary heart disease to determine why depressive symptoms are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events in patients with cardiovascular disease. All patients were gathered from area hospitals and followed by researchers for an average of 4.8 years after study beginning.

Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), and presence of depressive symptoms was defined as a PHQ score of ≥10. Various analyses were used to determine the rate of cardiovascular events in patients with MDD symptoms as compared to patients without MDD. Recorded cardiovascular events included heart failure, heart attack, stroke, transient ischemic attack—a temporary reduction of blood supply to the brain—or death.

Whooley and colleagues found that 341 cardiovascular events occurred during the study period. Patients with MDD symptoms had an ~50% increased risk of cardiovascular events than patients without MDD. The annual rate of cardiovascular events was 10% for the 199 patients with MDD when adjusted for age. For the 818 patients without MDD, the annual rate of cardiovascular events was 6.7% during the study period. When adjusted for the severity of cardiac disease and other factors, the authors found that patients with MDD symptoms were at a 31% increased risk of experiencing adverse cardiac events as compared to patients with depression.

In addition, after adjusting findings for particular health behaviors, including lack of physical activity, Whooley and colleagues found that there was no significant difference between patients with or without MDD and subsequent development of adverse cardiac events. However, lack of physical exercise was associated with a 44% increase in cardiovascular events for all patients. The authors concluded that although depressive symptoms are associated with cardiovascular events, this association may be due to changes in behavior—particularly lack of exercise—due to MDD symptoms.

Whooley and colleagues said that the relationship between MDD and cardiovascular events may be caused when patients with MDD symptoms do not adhere to exercise, dietary, and other recommendations by PCPs and other medical professionals, which leads to cardiovascular events. Medication adherence for this group may also be reduced when compared to patients without MDD. The authors added that these findings are useful for PCPs as they illustrate that adverse cardiovascular events could potentially be prevented if depressed patients modify certain health behaviors, such as increasing amount of exercise. (JAMA. 2008;300(20):2379-2388.) –CP


Psychiatric dispatches is written by Christopher Naccari, Carlos Perkins, Jr, and Lonnie Stoltzfoos.