Objectives: To determine whether naltrexone is beneficial in the treatment of alcohol dependence in the absence of obligatory pyschosocial intervention.
Design: Multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Setting: Hospital-based drug and alcohol clinics, 18 March 1998 – 22 October 1999.
Patients: 107 patients (mean age, 45 years) fulfilling Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th edition) criteria for alcohol dependence.
Interventions: Patients with alcohol dependence were randomly allocated to naltrexone (50 mg/day) or placebo for 12 weeks. They were medically assessed, reviewed and advised by one physician, and encouraged to strive for abstinence and attend counselling and/or Alcoholics Anonymous, but this was not obligatory.
Main outcome measures: Relapse rate; time to first relapse; side effects.
Results: On an intention-to-treat basis, the Kaplan–Meier survival curve showed a clear advantage in relapse rates for naltrexone over placebo (log-rank test, χ21 = 4.15; P = 0.042). This treatment effect was most marked in the first 6 weeks of the trial. The median time to relapse was 90 days for naltrexone, compared with 42 days for placebo. In absolute numbers, 19 of 56 patients (33.9%) taking naltrexone relapsed, compared with 27 of 51 patients (52.9%) taking placebo (P = 0.047). Naltrexone was well tolerated.
Conclusions: Unlike previous studies, we have shown that naltrexone with adjunctive medical advice is effective in the treatment of alcohol dependence irrespective of whether it is accompanied by psychosocial interventions.
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