Treatment of sleep disturbance in alcohol recovery: a national survey of addiction medicine physicians

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Alcoholism; Anti-Anxiety Agents; Antidepressive Agents; Convalescence; Drug Utilization; Female; Health Care Surveys; Humans; Hypnotics and Sedatives; Male; Mental Health Services; Middle Aged; Physician's Practice Patterns; Questionnaires; Sleep Disorders; United States


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine


Sleep disturbance is common among patients in recovery from alcoholism and can precipitate relapse. Though sleep complaints are commonly managed with medication, little is known about their management among recovering alcoholic patients. We performed a postal survey of a self-weighted, random systematic sample of 503 members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to examine addiction medicine physicians' medical management of sleep disturbance among patients in early recovery from alcoholism. After 3 mailings, 311 (62%) responded. Of responents, 64% have offered pharmacological treatment to an insomniac, alcoholic patient in the first 3 months after detoxification, but only 22% offered medication to more than half of such patients. Trazodone was the preferred therapy, chosen first by 38% of respondents, followed by other sedating antidepressants (12%), and antihistamines (12%). The mean duration of therapy for trazodone and other sedating antidepressants exceeded one month. Experts in addiction medicine appear reluctant to prescribe medication to sleep-disturbed patients in early recovery from alcoholism. When they do prescribe, trazodone, other sedating antidepressants and antihistamines are favored, despite limited evidence for or against this indication. Although the treatment of disordered sleep among alcoholic patients in early recovery may have merit to prevent relapse, controlled studies of these sleep agents are needed.

DOI of Published Version



J Addict Dis. 2003;22(2):91-103. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of addictive diseases

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID