An open trial of gabapentin in acute alcohol withdrawal using an oral loading protocol.
ABSTRACT Anticonvulsants are increasingly being advocated for the treatment of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) to avoid the addictive properties of established medications. Because earlier works showed that moderate gabapentin doses were too low to clearly ameliorate severe AWS, we tested a higher gabapentin entry dose.
Inpatients (n = 37) with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms (Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol revised (CIWA-AR) score > or =15 points) were given gabapentin 800 mg, and if their symptom score reduced within 2 h, they were termed 'early responders' and were then treated for 2 days with 600 mg gabapentin q.i.d. (i.e. a total of 3200 mg in the first 24 h) before beginning a taper.
Twenty-seven (73%) were early responders (baseline CIWA-AR improved from 17.3 +/- 2.6 to 8.0 +/- 3.6 points). In the remaining 10 patients, baseline CIWA-AR deteriorated within 2 h (from 20.1 +/- 4.6 to 21.5 +/- 4.65 points). These patients were switched to clomethiazole (n = 4) or clonazepam (n = 6), which is the usual treatment. Three of the 'early responders' worsened in the next 36 h and were then reclassified and treated as 'non-responders'. Among them, two developed an epileptic seizure.
Oral 800 mg gabapentin (loaded up to 3200 mg in the first 24 h) is helpful only in reducing less severe and less complicated acute AWS.