Efficacy and safety of pharmacological interventions for the treatment of the Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Department of Epidemiology, ASL RM/E, Via di Santa Costanza, 53, Rome, Italy, 00198.
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (Impact Factor: 5.94). 01/2011; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008537.pub2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Alcohol abuse and dependence represents a very serious health problem worldwide with major social, interpersonal and legal interpolations. Pharmacological treatments presently used are of uncertain effectiveness and there is even more doubt on the comparative effects and value for money.
To summarize Cochrane reviews that assess the effectiveness and safety of pharmacological interventions in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal.
We searched the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (30 November 2010). Two authors independently screened, extracted data, summarised key characteristics of the included reviews and assessed their quality using AMSTAR; the quality of the evidence was summarised according to the GRADE methodology.
Five reviews, 114 studies, 7333 participants, satisfied criteria for inclusions. The outcomes considered were alcohol withdrawal seizures, adverse events and dropouts. Comparing the five treatments with placebo, benzodiazepines performed better for seizures, three studies, 324 participants, RR 0.16 (95% CI 0.04 to 0.69), moderate quality of evidence. Comparing each of the five treatments versus specific class of drugs, benzodiazepines performed better than antipsychotics for seizures, 4 studies, 633 participants, RR 0.24 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.88) high quality of the evidence. Comparing different benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants among themselves, 28 comparisons, results never reached statistical significance but chlordiazepoxide performed better. The quality of evidence was high for 3% of the results, moderate for 28%, low for 48% and very low for 20%.
Among the treatments considered, benzodiazepines showed a protective benefit against seizures, when compared to placebo and a potentially protective benefit for many outcomes when compared with antipsychotics. Nevertheless, no definite conclusions about the effectiveness and safety of benzodiazepines were possible, because of the heterogeneity of the trials both in interventions and in the assessment of outcomes. Data on potential harms are sparse and fragmented. Results do not provide sufficient evidence in favour of anticonvulsants for the treatment of AWS, but anticonvulsants seem to have limited side effects. There is also not enough evidence of effectiveness and safety of baclofen, because only one study consider this treatment and of GHB for which no strong differences were observed in the comparisons with placebo, benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) may develop within 6-24 h after the abrupt discontinuation or decrease of alcohol consumption. Symptoms can vary from autonomic hyperactivity and agitation to delirium tremens. The gold-standard treatment for AWS is with benzodiazepines (BZDs). Among the BZDs, different agents (i.e., long-acting or short-acting) and different regimens (front-loading, fixed-dose or symptom-triggered) may be chosen on the basis of patient characteristics. Severe withdrawal could require ICU admission and the use of barbiturates or propofol. Other drugs, such as α2-agonists (clonidine and dexmetedomidine) and β-blockers can be used as adjunctive treatments to control neuroautonomic hyperactivity. Furthermore, neuroleptic agents can help control hallucinations. Finally, other medications for the treatment for AWS have been investigated with promising results. These include carbamazepine, valproate, sodium oxybate, baclofen, gabapentin and topiramate. The usefulness of these agents are discussed.
    Drugs 03/2015; 75(4):353-65. DOI:10.1007/s40265-015-0358-1 · 4.13 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: CONTEXT AND OBJECTIVE: Overviews of Systematic Reviews (OoRs) are a new type of study in which multiple evidence from systematic reviews (SRs) is compiled into an accessible and useful document. The aim here was to describe the state of the art and critically assess Cochrane OoRs that have been published. DESIGN AND SETTING: Descriptive study conducted at a research center. METHODS: The OoRs identified through the filter developed in Part I of this study were evaluated in five domains: methodological quality; quality of evidence; implications for practice; general profile of OoRs; and length of work. RESULTS: All 13 OoRs included had high methodological quality. Some OoRs did not present sufficient data to judge the quality of evidence; using sensitivity analysis, the quality of evidence of the OoRs increased. Regarding implications for practice, 64% of the interventions were judged as beneficial or harmful, while 36% of them showed insufficient evidence for judgment. It is expected (with 95% confidence interval) that one OoR will include 9,462 to 64,469 patients, 9 to 29 systematic reviews and 80 to 344 primary studies, and assess 6 to 21 interventions; and that 50 to 92% of OoRs will produce meta-analysis. The OoRs generated 2 to 26 meta-analyses over a period of 18 to 31 months. CONCLUSION: The OoRs presented high methodological quality; the quality of evidence tended to be moderate/high; most interventions were judged to be beneficial/harmful; the mean length of work was 24 months. The OoR profile adds power to decision-making.
    Sao Paulo Medical Journal 11/2014; DOI:10.1590/1516-3180.2013.8150015 · 0.70 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
May 19, 2014