Treatment of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome is best accomplished using pharmacologic agents that have minimal interaction with alcohol, have limited adverse effects, and are without abuse potential. The partial benzodiazepine receptor agonist beta-carboline compound, abecarnil, has been shown in animal and human studies to possess a number of these characteristics and to be useful in the reduction of alcohol withdrawal convulsions in mice. In this study, 49 alcohol-dependent inpatients who exhibited at least moderate symptoms of uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal were treated over a 5-day detoxification period with abecarnil or diazepam and rated daily for alcohol withdrawal symptoms and adverse events. Both the abecarnil and diazepam treatment groups exhibited a similar marked reduction in withdrawal symptoms over time. In addition, similar rates of successful treatment and improvement were observed after 1 day of treatment and at termination in alcoholics treated with either medication. Overall, rates of adverse events and changes in liver enzymes were similar in both treatment groups and were generally benign. Because of the unique pharmacologic profile of abecarnil in animal and in non-clinical human studies, including anticonvulsant action, low abuse liability, and a favorable side effect profile, further study of compounds of the partial benzodiazepine receptor agonist type in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndromes seems warranted.
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Partial benzodiazepine agonists
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