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Rates of Substance Abuse After Transplant Are Low

More research needed to identify individuals at risk for relapse

THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of alcohol relapse following liver transplantation is relatively low, occurring at a rate of 5.6 cases per 100 patients per year, according to an article published in Liver Transplantation in February.

Mary Amanda Dew, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 54 studies of drug and alcohol use after organ transplantation (50 liver, three kidney, one heart) in order to estimate substance relapse rates and to identify any risk factors for drug and alcohol relapse after transplantation.

The average alcohol relapse rate (available only for liver transplant studies) was 5.6 cases per 100 patients per year (PPY), and 2.5 cases per 100 PPY for heavy alcohol use. The rate of post-transplant illicit drug relapse was 3.7 cases per 100 PPY, with lower rates in liver transplant patients compared to other recipients (1.9 versus 6.1 cases). Poor social support, family alcohol history and pre-transplantation abstinence of less than six months was associated with small but significantly increased rates of alcohol relapse.

"We know that predicting future alcohol or drug relapse remains imperfect, as is well demonstrated by the still contentious status of the 'six-month abstinence rule.' We need future studies that confront the issue of the suitability for transplantation of patients with duration of abstinence shorter than six months," write the authors of an associated editorial.

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