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High-Dose Gabapentin for the Treatment of Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: A Retrospective Cohort Analysis.

Pharmacotherapy 2019 September
STUDY OBJECTIVE: Gabapentin has been proved to be beneficial in promoting abstinence, decreasing alcohol cravings, and improving mood and sleep quality when given at higher doses; however, data are limited regarding the efficacy and safety of using high-dose gabapentin as part of the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of high-dose gabapentin on benzodiazepine requirements, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and hospital length of stay in patients hospitalized with AWS.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: Large academic medical center.

PATIENTS: All adults presenting to the emergency department between January 2015 and April 2018 with a diagnosis of severe AWS (Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol Scale, Revised [CIWA-Ar] score ≥ 15) and prescribed the institution's alcohol withdrawal agitated delirium protocol were eligible for inclusion in the study. Of these, 50 patients who received high-dose gabapentin (≥ 1800 mg/day) in the first 48 hours of hospital admission (treatment group) were propensity score-matched to 50 patients who did not receive gabapentin (control group).

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Patients who received high-dose gabapentin required a significantly lower overall amount of benzodiazepines (mean ± SD 109.5 ± 53.4 mg vs 88.5 ± 35.6 mg [lorazepam equivalents], p=0.023) and had a significantly lower mean CIWA-Ar score (10.1 ± 4.7 vs 7.7 ± 3.9, p=0.010) and maximum CIWA-Ar score (16.0 ± 7.0 vs 12.6 ± 6.1, p=0.016) on day 3 of hospitalization. The high-dose gabapentin regimen was well tolerated, without an increased risk of oversedation, compared with the control group (Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale score < -1: 34% in the treatment group vs 20% in the control group, p=0.115). Patients receiving high-dose gabapentin had a shorter length of hospital stay (7.4 ± 4.0 days vs 6.0 ± 2.6 days, p=0.034) and increased likelihood of being discharged home (66% vs 88%, p=0.009) compared with the control group.

CONCLUSION: Early initiation of high-dose gabapentin was associated with a significant reduction in benzodiazepine exposure, faster stabilization of alcohol withdrawal-related symptoms, and shorter hospital length of stay. Future studies evaluating gabapentin's effect on long-term safety and hospital readmission are warranted.

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