Clinical Medication Development for Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorders

  • End date
    Dec 14, 2021
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Sherwood Brown, MD, PhD
Updated on 28 July 2021
substance use
valproic acid
bipolar disorder
mood stabilizer
alcohol use disorder
schizoaffective disorder
atypical antipsychotic


Preclinical and clinical data as well as mechanistic justification have been presented suggesting citicoline and pregnenolone are each promising treatments for alcohol use in BPD. Both appear to have favorable side effect profiles and no known drug-drug interactions. Thus, they have the potential to be safely used in a dual diagnosis population already taking other medications. A 12-week, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled adaptive design study of citicoline and pregnenolone is proposed in 199 persons with alcohol use disorder and bipolar I or II disorder or schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type). The primary aim will be to assess change in alcohol use. Biomarkers of alcohol use, alcohol craving, mood and cognition will also be assessed. Relationships between neurosteroid and choline levels and the outcome measures will be explored.


A 12-week, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled adaptive, Drop The Loser (DTL) design clinical trial of citicoline and pregnenolone will be conducted in 199 outpatients with bipolar I or II disorder or schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type) and current alcohol use disorder. Potential participants will be identified and an appointment will be arranged. At this appointment, informed consent will be obtained, and assessment procedures, including a review of inclusion and exclusion criteria, will be performed.

A structured clinical interview for Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5), Structured Clinical Interview for Disorders (SCID) will be performed to establish the diagnoses of bipolar I or II disorder and alcohol use disorder. Recent alcohol use (and, if present, other substance use) will be assessed using the Timeline Followback (TLFB) method. Drinking severity and withdrawal symptoms will be assessed through a variety of measures (e.g., Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Use-Revised (CIWA-Ar), Penn Alcohol Craving Scale (PACS), Short Index of Problems (SIP)). Length of problem alcohol use will be assessed by asking "When did alcohol first start causing you problems?" Blood will be drawn for laboratory analyses including a complete blood count (CBC) and Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (includes a liver panel with AST, ALT as well as lipids and electrolytes), and GGT and carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) will be added at baseline (week 0) and weeks 6 and 12. Cognition, including the domains of memory, decision making, impulsivity, attention, and executive functioning will also be assessed at baseline and week 12 using the World Health Organization/University of California at Los Angeles Auditory-Verbal Learning Test (WHO-UCLA AVLT), Trail Making Test (TMT), and the Golden Stroop Color Word Test. Women of childbearing potential will receive a urine pregnancy test at baseline, week 6, and week 12 and will be counseled about effective contraceptive methods. A psychiatrist (PI or Co-I) will assess participants at baseline and weekly follow-up visits and will participate in the informed consent process. The active medication or placebo capsules will be initiated at baseline and increased weekly in weeks 1, 2 and 3 to achieve the target doses for citicoline (2000 mg/day) or pregnenolone (500 mg/day). Side effects will be managed in a blinded fashion. Safety and side effects will be assessed with the Systematic Assessment for Treatment Emergent Events (SAFTEE). At weekly visits, mood and suicidality will be assessed through various measures (e.g. Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD17), Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (CSSRS) and assessment of alcohol use will again be evaluated. All participants will receive Medical Monitoring (MM) as a psychosocial platform. After study completion, participants will be provided standard psychiatric care until outside referral is arranged.

Condition Bipolar Disorder, Alcohol abuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorders, Bipolar Disorders (Pediatric), Alcohol Dependence, Manic Disorders
Treatment Placebo, citicoline, Pregnenolone
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02582905
SponsorSherwood Brown, MD, PhD
Last Modified on28 July 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Outpatient men and women age 18-70 years old with bipolar I or II disorder or schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type)
English or Spanish speaking
Current diagnosis of alcohol use disorder with at least moderate severity (DSM-5 terminology)
Alcohol use of at least an average of 28 drinks a week if male or an average of 21 drinks per week if female and an average of 3 drinking days a week in the 28 days prior to intake
Current mood stabilizer therapy (defined as lithium, lamotrigine, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine or an atypical antipsychotic) with stable dose for 28 days prior to randomization or valproate/divalproex at a stable dose for 90 days (longer period due to data suggesting valproate may decrease alcohol use in BPD)
Diagnosis of substance use disorder other than alcohol, caffeine or nicotine is allowed if 1) alcohol is the self-identified substance of choice and 2) severity of other substance use disorder is moderate

Exclusion Criteria

Mood disorders other than bipolar I or II disorders or schizoaffective disorder bipolar type (e.g. bipolar NOS, cyclothymic disorders, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder depressive type, or unipolar depression based on the SCID); other disorders (e.g. anxiety, will be allowed)
Baseline HRSD17 or YMRS scores 35 to exclude those with very severe mood symptoms at baseline
Evidence of clinically significant alcohol withdrawal symptoms defined as a CIWA-Ar score of 10
Current (last 28 days) treatment with naltrexone, acamprosate, disulfiram, or topiramate as these may also decrease alcohol use
Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. This exclusion is due to a possible interaction with pregnenolone
Women with hormone sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids. These persons are excluded because pregnenolone is converted to estrogens
Vulnerable populations (e.g. pregnant, nursing, cognitively impaired, incarcerated)
High risk for suicide defined as > 1 attempt in past 12 months that required medical attention, any attempt in the past 3 months or current suicidal ideation with plan and intent such that outpatient care is precluded
Intensive outpatient treatment (defined as 3 visits each week) for substance abuse (AA, NA meetings, or less intensive counseling at baseline will be allowed)
Severe/unstable condition (e.g. cirrhosis, poorly controlled hypertension) or laboratory/physical exam findings consistent with serious illness (e.g. abnormal electrolytes) or AST or ALT >3 times normal
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