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The role of gabapentin in the management of alcohol withdrawal and dependence.

OBJECTIVE: To review the literature evaluating gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal and dependence.

DATA SOURCES: A literature search of MEDLINE (1966 to end of March 2015) and PubMed was performed using the terms alcohol, gabapentin, withdrawal, and dependence. Additional references were identified from a review of literature citations.

STUDY SELECTION AND DATA EXTRACTION: English-language prospective studies evaluating gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal and dependence were evaluated.

DATA SYNTHESIS: A total of 10 publications utilizing gabapentin in alcohol withdrawal (n = 5) and alcohol dependence (n = 5) were included in this review. Limited data suggest that gabapentin can provide benefit in managing mild alcohol withdrawal syndrome. There were 5 reported or suspected seizures in the withdrawal studies, suggesting that additional safety data are necessary before gabapentin monotherapy can be routinely considered. Sleep and mood/anxiety-related outcomes were positively influenced by gabapentin, which may result in long-term benefits if continued beyond the withdrawal period for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Studies evaluating gabapentin for alcohol dependence demonstrated dose-dependent benefits for complete abstinence, rates of no heavy drinking, and cravings. Gabapentin used to treat alcohol dependence was well tolerated with no severe adverse reactions reported in the extant literature.

CONCLUSION: Gabapentin may have a role in the treatment of mild alcohol withdrawal, but future studies should focus on adequate dosing strategies. Gabapentin should be considered for the treatment of alcohol dependence when barriers prevent the use of traditional agents. Additional studies should be conducted to further validate findings from the research conducted to date, but the current literature is promising for gabapentin in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

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