Alcohol and substance use in older adults with treatment-resistant depression

Maytinee Srifuengfung, Eric J. Lenze, Steven P. Roose, Patrick J. Brown, Helen Lavretsky, Jordan F. Karp, Charles F. Reynolds, Michael Yingling, Naratip Sa-nguanpanich, Benoit H. Mulsant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Alcohol and substance use are increasing in older adults, many of whom have depression, and treatment in this context may be more hazardous. We assessed alcohol and other substance use patterns in older adults with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). We examined patient characteristics associated with higher alcohol consumption and examined the moderating effect of alcohol on the association between clinical variables and falls during antidepressant treatment. Methods: This secondary and exploratory analysis used baseline clinical data and data on falls during treatment from a large randomized antidepressant trial in older adults with TRD (the OPTIMUM trial). Multivariable ordinal logistic regression was used to identify variables associated with higher alcohol use. An interaction model was used to evaluate the moderating effect of alcohol on falls during treatment. Results: Of 687 participants, 51% acknowledged using alcohol: 10% were hazardous drinkers (AUDIT-10 score ≥5) and 41% were low-risk drinkers (score 1–4). Benzodiazepine use was seen in 24% of all participants and in 21% of drinkers. Use of other substances (mostly cannabis) was associated with alcohol consumption: it was seen in 5%, 9%, and 15% of abstainers, low-risk drinkers, and hazardous drinkers, respectively. Unexpectedly, use of other substances predicted increased risk of falls during antidepressant treatment only in abstainers. Conclusions: One-half of older adults with TRD in this study acknowledged using alcohol. Use of alcohol concurrent with benzodiazepine and other substances was common. Risks—such as falls—of using alcohol and other substances during antidepressant treatment needs further study.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6105
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • aging
  • cannabis
  • depressive disorder
  • elderly
  • falls
  • major depressive disorder
  • marijuana
  • polysubstance
  • seniors
  • treatment-resistant depression


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