The role of carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine in alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

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The role of carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine in alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2010 Apr;35(2):153-67

Authors: Barrons R, Roberts N

OBJECTIVE: The goal of this review is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine in treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) and determine the role in therapy of both agents. METHODS: Relevant literature was identified through a search of MEDLINE (1966-June 2008), PubMed (1966-June 2008); Cochrane database was performed to identify English-language publications. Search terms included carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, AWS, alcoholism, substance syndrome withdrawal. RESULTS: In seven studies, including 612 patients, carbamazepine demonstrated significant reduction in alcohol withdrawal scores. However, in comparative trials with a benzodiazepine agent, carbamazepine's ability to prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures (OR = 0.93; 95% CI = 0.06-14.97, P = NS) and delirium tremens (DTs; OR = 1.25; 95% CI = 0.28-5.64, P = NS) was uncertain as a result of insufficient patient enrollment. In three trials, carbamazepine failed to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms possibly as a result of delayed administration, inadequate dosage or inadequate sample size. At daily doses of 800 mg either fixed or tapered over 5-9 days, carbamazepine was well tolerated, and safely administered when blood alcohol concentration dropped below 0.15%. The role of oxcarbazepine in AWS is undefined because of inconsistent findings in two trials. CONCLUSION: Carbamazepine has demonstrated safety, tolerability and efficacy in treatment of moderate to severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in the inpatient setting. However, trials of carbamazepine provide inconclusive evidence for prevention of alcohol withdrawal seizures and DTs in comparison with benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines remain the primary treatment of moderate to severe AWS.

PMID: 20456734 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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