Substance Abuse Among Persons with Multiple Sclerosis.

TitleSubstance Abuse Among Persons with Multiple Sclerosis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsBombardier CH, Boag-Whitley T, Cunniffe M, Ehde DM, Gibbons LE, Kraft GH, Moore D, Pelzer E
JournalInternational Journal of MS Care

Objective: To measure rates and correlates of alcohol problems and drug use among persons with MS. Subjects: 784 persons with physician-diagnosed MS who responded to a survey. 78% were female. The average age was 49 years. 61% were married/cohabiting. The mean EDSS was 5.8. Method: The survey was sent to 1178 MSA members in the Seattle area. After invalid cases were excluded, 61% completed the survey. Results: Less than 10% of the sample reported that they thought they should cut down on their drinking. About 7% reported use of drugs or medications for non-medical purposes. Over 6% reported consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month. Six percent reported two or more indicators of alcohol problems. Fifty six (56) (41%) of those endorsing alcohol problems were somewhat or very interested in learning to stop or cut down. People who are younger, still working, have less severe MS, and have been diagnosed more recently were more likely to report problems with alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drug use were related to greater depressive symptomatology, but not to fatigue, social support, pain, or general health perception. Conclusion: Significant alcohol problems are not common in this sample, but the rate of significant problems may be slightly higher than in the normal middle aged female population, wherein the one year prevalence of alcoholism is 4.5-0.8%. There may be a natural tendency for substance abuse to become less of a problem as people with MS age and have persistent or progressive symptoms. Substance abuse is associated with depressive symptoms. Nearly half of those with substance abuse problems may want help. Clinicians should be alert to the possibility of substance abuse among persons with MS and be prepared to provide referral information or brief interventions.

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