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June 26, 2003

Depression and Suspiciousness Are Associated with Alcohol Abuse in Schizophrenics

Depression and suspiciousness are independent predictors of alcohol abuse in schizophrenics, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, also found that male schizophrenic patients were more prone to develop alcohol-related disorders when compared with female patients.

Erick Messias, MD, MPH, lead author and graduate student in the School’s General Preventive Medicine Residency Program, said, “In an era when we tend to look for high-tech solutions to detect risk, such as biomarkers and genes, this study shows that asking simple questions can provide clues about risk for alcohol abuse. Previous studies have shown that persons with schizophrenia and who drink alcohol have poorer long-term prognosis, including depression. Identifying these patients early and starting preventive interventions may have a great impact in the final outcome,” said Dr. Messias.

Data for the study was obtained from the first portion of a five-site Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, which included a representative sample of the U.S. adult population.

The authors noted that as a cross-sectional study, they could not test to determine if suspiciousness caused drinking or vice versa. The study was limited to associating factors that put people at risk. The researchers also explained that men and women consume different amounts of alcohol, with women drinking less, thus lowering the study’s ability to detect an association with female patients and drinking.

O. Joseph Bienvenu, MD, PhD, study co-author and assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said, “The finding of an association between a specific subgroup of delusions and alcohol abuse or dependence in patients with schizophrenia may help clinicians identify patients at risk for whom preventive measures may be helpful."

The researchers see a need for additional studies to further investigate the relationship between suspiciousness and alcohol problems.

“Suspiciousness and Alcohol Use Disorders in Schizophrenia: A cross-sectional population-based study” was published in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

Research was supported in part by a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Clinical Scientist Award given to Dr. Bienvenu, who is also an assistant professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Brigham or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.