BACKGROUND: This systematic review evaluates current literature on anticonvulsants to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms (AWS).
METHODS: We performed a literature search of PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and Cochrane collaboration databases through September 30, 2016. The search was not restricted by patients’ age. Articles published in English or with official English translations were included.
RESULTS: We found 16 double-blind randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the use of anticonvulsants as treatment of AWS. Available data indicates that anticonvulsants are as effective as sedatives/hypnotics in treating mild or moderate AWS. Two studies evaluated the use of anticonvulsants as adjuncts. Combining anticonvulsants with sedatives decreases the quantity of sedatives required and AWS may resolve quicker. There is some data that anticonvulsants can be used to treat AWS as monotherapy. Fourteen of these studies assessed adverse effects of these medications; 13 studies identified minor adverse effects and one found the adverse effects to be intolerable.
CONCLUSIONS: Available evidence indicates that anticonvulsants have good efficacy as monotherapy and as adjuncts with sedatives/hypnotics in treating mild to moderate AWS.