Study Looks at Tranquilizers Used to Ease Withdrawal

Researchers say that using benzodiazepines — drugs like Valium, Halcion and Xanax — to help ease withdrawal from alcohol addiction works better than a placebo. But benzodiazepines worked no better than other drugs commonly used to help patients through withdrawal.

Dr. Christos Ntais of the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and colleagues found that patients given benzodiazepines were 84% less likely to suffer withdrawal-related seizures than those given a placebo. “This might suggest that their [benzodiazepines’] current status as first-line treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome is justified,” the authors said.

But Ntais and the other researchers noted that other drugs, such as anticonvulsives like carbamazepine, are equally effective. “There was no conclusive evidence or even hints for superiority of specific drugs, but modest differences could have been missed due to limited data,” Ntais said.

The Greek researchers received 57 studies on benzodiazepine use for withdrawal; a separate group of scientists reviewed 48 studies on anticonvulsive use. Both reviews found that cases of death or serious complications were rare. “The extremely small mortality rate in all these studies is reassuring, but data on other harms-related outcomes are sparse and fragmented,” said Ntais.

Sarah Book of the Medical University of South Carolina noted that — unlike anticonvulsives — benzodiazepines have the potential to trigger relapse, and the interaction of benzodiazepine and alcohol can be fatal.

Source: of The Cochrane Library. (2005, Vol. 3)

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