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Clinician Article

Baclofen for alcohol withdrawal.



  • Liu J
  • Wang LN
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Nov 6;2019(11). doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008502.pub6. (Review)
PMID: 31689723
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Disciplines
  • Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 3/7
  • Internal Medicine
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 3/7
  • Psychiatry
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • FM/GP/Mental Health
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 3/7

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is a distressing and life-threatening condition that usually affects people who are alcohol dependent when they discontinue or decrease their alcohol consumption. Baclofen shows potential for rapidly reducing symptoms of severe AWS in people with alcoholism. Treatment with baclofen is easy to manage and rarely produces euphoria or other pleasant effects, or craving for the drug. This is an updated version of the original Cochrane Review first published in 2011 and last updated in 2017.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the efficacy and safety of baclofen for people with AWS.

SEARCH METHODS: We updated our searches of the following databases to June 2019: the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL, PubMed, Embase, and CINAHL. We also searched registers of ongoing trials. We handsearched the references quoted in the identified trials, and sought information from researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and relevant trial authors about unpublished or uncompleted trials. We placed no restrictions on language.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included all randomised controlled clinical trials (RCTs) evaluating baclofen versus placebo or any other treatment for people with AWS. We excluded uncontrolled, non-randomised, or quasi-randomised trials. We included both parallel group and cross-over studies.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane.

MAIN RESULTS: We included four RCTs with 189 randomised participants (one RCT new for this update). None of the included studies reported the primary outcomes of alcohol withdrawal seizures, alcohol withdrawal delirium, or craving. For the comparison of baclofen and placebo (1 study, 31 participants), there was no evidence of a difference in Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Scale, Revised (CIWA-Ar) scores in eight-hour periods from days one to five (very low-quality evidence). For the comparison of baclofen and diazepam (2 studies, 85 participants), there was no evidence of a difference in change from baseline to days 10 to 15 on CIWA-Ar scores (very low-quality evidence, meta-analysis was not performed due to insufficient data). In one study (37 participants), there was no evidence of a difference in participants with at least one adverse event (risk difference (RD) 0.00, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.10 to 0.10; very low-quality evidence), dropouts (RD 0.00, 95% CI -0.10 to 0.10; very low-quality evidence), and dropouts due to adverse events (RD 0.00, 95% CI -0.10 to 0.10; very low-quality evidence). For the comparison of baclofen and chlordiazepoxide (1 study, 60 participants), there was no evidence of a difference in difference from baseline to nine-day decremental fixed-dose intervention: CIWA-Ar scores (mean difference (MD) 1.00, 95% CI 0.70 to 1.30; very low-quality evidence), global improvement (MD 0.10, 95% CI -0.03 to 0.23; very low-quality evidence), 14/60 participants with adverse events (RD 2.50, 95% CI 0.88 to 7.10; very low-quality of evidence), dropouts (RD 0.00, 95% CI -0.06 to 0.06; very low-quality evidence), and dropouts due to adverse events (RD 0.00, 95% CI -0.06 to 0.06; very low-quality evidence). None of the RCTs provided information on random sequence generation or allocation concealment, therefore, we assessed them at unclear risk of bias. Two RCTs were not of double-blind design and had a high risk of bias in blinding (Addolorato 2006; Girish 2016). One RCT had more than 5% dropouts with high risk of attrition bias (Lyon 2011). We could not assess reporting bias as none of the prepublished protocols were available.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: No conclusions can be drawn about the efficacy and safety of baclofen for the management of alcohol withdrawal because we found insufficient and very low-quality evidence.


Clinical Comments

FM/GP/Mental Health

Evaluation of efficacy and safety of baclofen for the management of alcohol withdrawal is insufficient and there's very low-quality evidence.

Internal Medicine

This is a good article. Alcohol intoxication and withdrawal are common patient populations in inpatient medicinal practice. The quality of evidence from the studies reviewed was very low as acknowledged by authors as well. Moreover, baclofen is not commonly used in alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Based on this, I do not believe this article will have much impact on current clinical practice.

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