Treatment of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal With Gabapentin: Results From a Controlled Two-Center Trial

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A few case reports and data from animal experiments point to a possible efficacy of gabapentin (GP) in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). Because of ethical considerations, the efficacy of GP in acute AWS was tested in an add-on fashion to clomethiazole (CLO). Given that the symptom-triggered amount of CLO required to limit AWS within the first 24 hours is related to the severity of AWS, we tested this amount of CLO during placebo (P) or GP (400 mg qid) under double blind, randomized conditions. Sixty-one patients (P = 29/GP = 32) suffering from alcohol dependence (ICD-10) and without any other psychiatric condition or psychotropic medication were included. The groups were not significantly different in baseline characteristics (eg, demographic data, severity of AWS). Both ITT and completer analyses revealed no significant differences between the groups considering the primary effectiveness measure: amount of CLO required in the first 24 hours (P = 6.1 ± 5.4/GP = 6.2 ± 4.7 capsules). In addition, premature discontinuations (P = 3/GP = 2) and decreases in Mainz Alcohol Withdrawal Scores were not significantly different in the first 48 hours of AWS (secondary effectiveness measures). Tolerability of combined CLO/GP was studied throughout the whole treatment comprising a 5-day lasting reduction part subsequent to the first 48 hours. Throughout the whole 7-day treatment a total of 5 and 2 patients dropped out and 6 and 5 patients reported adverse clinical events in the P and GP groups, respectively. All together, GP (400 mg qid) was no better than P in saving initial consumption of CLO or decreasing initial Mainz Alcohol Withdrawal Scores suggesting that GP was ineffective in the management of acute AWS in this model. The combination of GP and CLO was safe.

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