A randomized, double-blind comparison of lorazepam and chlordiazepoxide in patients with uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal

Channaveerachari Naveen Kumar, Chittaranjan Andrade, Pratima Murthy
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 2009, 70 (3): 467-74

OBJECTIVE: For important reasons, lorazepam (Ativan) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium) are both popular treatments for alcohol-withdrawal syndrome. Nevertheless, there is little literature directly comparing the two drugs. A formal comparison is desirable because of pharmacokinetic and other differences that could affect safety and efficacy considerations relevant to practice in developing countries.

METHOD: One hundred consecutive consenting male inpatients in a state of moderately severe, uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal at screening were randomized to receive either lorazepam (8 mg/day) or chlordiazepoxide (80 mg/day) with dosing down-titrated to zero in a fixed-dose schedule across 8 treatment days. Double-blind assessments of withdrawal-symptom severity and impairing adverse events were obtained during treatment and for 4 days afterward.

RESULTS: One chlordiazepoxide patient developed withdrawal delirium. Lorazepam and chlordiazepoxide showed similar efficacy in reducing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as assessed using the revised Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol scale. During withdrawal, irritability and dizziness were more common with lorazepam, and palpitations were more common with chlordiazepoxide. No difficulties in drug discontinuation or differences in impairing adverse events were observed with either drug.

CONCLUSIONS: With the treatment schedule used in this study, lorazepam is as effective as the more traditional drug chlordiazepoxide in attenuating uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal. Lorazepam, therefore, could be used with confidence when liver disease or the inability to determine liver function status renders chlordiazepoxide therapy problematic. The absence of clinically significant withdrawal complications with lorazepam in this large study contrasts with findings from previously published studies and suggests that higher doses of lorazepam than those formerly used may be necessary during alcohol withdrawal.

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