Enhanced Sensitivity to the Euphoric Effects of Alcohol in Schizophrenia

Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States
Neuropsychopharmacology (Impact Factor: 7.83). 01/2007; 31(12):2767-75. DOI: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301207
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to determine whether schizophrenia was associated with alterations in alcohol response that might explain the elevated risk for AUDs in this population. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, counter-balanced 3 test day laboratory study, the effects of alcohol were compared in 23 subjects with schizophrenia (without any previous alcohol use disorder (AUD) but with some alcohol exposure) and in 14 healthy subjects matched for age, gender, education, and lifetime exposure to alcohol. Standard alcohol drinks in a scheduled design were administered to produce blood alcohol levels of 0, 0.02-0.04 mg%, or 0.06-0.08 mg%. Schizophrenia symptoms, perceptual alterations, stimulant and depressant subjective effects of alcohol, and 'high' were measured before alcohol administration and at several post-drug time points. Verbal learning and recall, vigilance and distractibility, and motor function were assessed once per test day. Relative to healthy subjects, subjects with schizophrenia reported greater euphoria and stimulatory effects in response to alcohol. Alcohol produced small transient increases in positive psychotic symptoms and perceptual alterations without affecting negative symptoms. Alcohol also impaired several aspects of immediate and delayed recall, and vigilance, and distractibility. Schizophrenia patients showed increased euphoric and stimulatory responses to alcohol. These exaggerated positive responses to alcohol doses may contribute to the increased risk for AUDs associated with schizophrenia. The absence of 'beneficial' effects of alcohol does not support a self-medication hypothesis of alcohol use in schizophrenia.

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