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Depression and alcohol withdrawal syndrome: is antidepressant therapy associated with lower rates of hospital readmission?



Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is a frequent cause of admission to acute care hospitals and many of these patients have a history of depression.


Our objective was to determine if antidepressant use in patients with a history of depression is associated with lower rates of hospital readmission for AWS.


A retrospective study was performed of patients admitted with AWS between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008 to an academic tertiary referral hospital.


Three hundred and twenty-two patients were admitted with AWS during the study period. One hundred and sixty-one patients (50 %) had no history of depression, 111 patients (34 %) had a history of depression and antidepressant use, and 50 patients (16 %) had a history of depression and no antidepressant use. There was no significant difference in the number of hospitalizations for AWS between these three groups. Patients with a history of depression on antidepressant medication were more likely to be retired or work disabled compared to the other two groups (p < 0.05). The antidepressant class most commonly used was SSRI (63 %).


Our study highlights the high frequency of depression and antidepressant use in patients admitted with AWS to an acute care hospital. As alcohol withdrawal is associated with increased morbidity and mortality and depression is common in those with alcohol use disorder, further research is necessary to clarify the optimal treatment of comorbid depression and alcohol use disorder in reducing these revolving door admissions.

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Conflict of interest

Drs. Kimberly Schoonover, M. Caroline Burton, Scott Larson, and Maria Lapid in addition to Mr. Stephen Cha report no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.

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Correspondence to K. Schoonover.

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Schoonover, K., Burton, M.C., Larson, S.A. et al. Depression and alcohol withdrawal syndrome: is antidepressant therapy associated with lower rates of hospital readmission?. Ir J Med Sci 185, 573–579 (2016).

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  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Depression
  • Antidepressant medication
  • Hospital readmission