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Home > Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) for treatment of alcohol withdrawal and prevention of relapses.

Leone, Maurizio A. and Vigna-Taglianti, Federica and Avanzi, GianCarlo and Brambilla, Romeo and Faggiano, Fabrizio [The Cochrane Library] . (2010) Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) for treatment of alcohol withdrawal and prevention of relapses. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2) Art. No.: CD006266. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006266.pub2


To evaluate the efficacy and safety of GHB for treatment of AWS and prevention of relapse

Thirteen randomised controlled trials involving 648 participants were included in this review. Eleven of these were conducted in Italy. However, there is not enough reliable evidence from the research that has been done to date to be confident of a difference between GHB and placebo, or to determine reliably if GHB is more or less effective than other drugs for the treatment of alcohol withdrawl or the prevention of relapses.

Six trials with a total of 286 participants evaluated the effectiveness of GHB in reducing withdrawal syndrome. These compared the drug with a variety of other interventions, making it impossible to use them all in a single analysis. One study suggests that GHB might reduce withdrawal symptoms more than a placebo, but this is based on a very small number of patients. No strong differences were observed between GHB and benzodiazepines or Clomethiazole. In the other comparisons, the differences were not statistically significant.

Seven trials involving 362 participants tested the use of GHB to treat alcohol dependence or prevent relapses if a person was already detoxified (mid-term outcomes). These included several different comparisons, so each analysis was able to include only one or two trials; and the trials were generally small (range 17 to 98 participants). GHB did appear to be better than Naltrexone and Disulfiram in maintaining abstinence and preventing craving, based on two trials and one trial respectively for these comparisons. The most consistently reported side effect of GHB was dizziness and vertigo, with this being more common at higher doses. The findings of this review should be considered alongside concerns that have been raised about GHB regarding the risk of developing addiction, and the misuse or abuse of the drug, suggesting to use GHB only under strict medical surveillance.

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