Background: It is well known that only a minority of alcohol-dependent subjects seek help and that the majority of alcohol-dependent individuals recover without utilization of formal help. Psychiatric comorbidity is highly prevalent among alcohol-dependent individuals. However, no data are available on the impact of psychiatric comorbidity on natural recovery. Aims: To analyse the impact of non-psychotic psychiatric comorbid Axis I disorders on remission rate and utilization of formal help in alcohol-dependent individuals drawn from a representative general population sample in northern Germany (response rate: 70.2%, n = 4075). Psychiatric diagnoses and utilization of help were assessed in a personal interview using standardized instruments. One hundred and fifty-three life-time alcohol-dependent individuals were assessed, among whom 98 fulfilled the criteria for sustained long-term remission according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version II (DSM-IV) criteria. Any coincidence of DSM-IV non-psychotic Axis I disorders with alcohol dependence was counted as comorbidity. Comorbidity rate in the whole sample was 36.1%. Results: The rate of individuals who remitted from alcohol dependence without formal help was 36.9% in the non-comorbid and 42.6% in the comorbid group. Utilization of formal help was unrelated to comorbidity. Dually diagnosed subjects without a history of help-seeking showed minor differences concerning reasons for not seeking help. Seeking help was not related to schooling, severity of dependence and gender. Conclusion: Data reveal that remission without formal help is equally prevalent among non-comorbid as among comorbid alcohol-dependent individuals. Axis I comorbidity is not related directly to utilization of alcohol-related help. Negative prognoses for untreated comorbid alcohol-dependent individuals are not justified from an epidemiological point of view.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)