Zonisamide versus diazepam in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome
INTRODUCTION: Anticonvulsant drugs have been used in the treatment of alcohol detoxification. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of zonisamide in a sample of patients presenting alcohol withdrawal syndrome. METHOD: In this 3-week, randomized, flexible-dose trial, 40 inpatients with alcohol dependence disorder received zonisamide or diazepam for detoxification. Zonisamide was started at a dose of 400-600 mg/day (week 1), tapering to a minimum dose of 100-300 mg/day (week 3). Diazepam was administered using a similar regimen (from 130-50 mg/day tapering to 5-15 mg/day). Subjects were treated initially (weeks 1 and 2) in an inpatient unit and for the final week in an outpatient facility. During the inpatient period, the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA-Ar) was used to assess the efficacy of each substance. During the outpatient period the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA-Ar), Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, and a craving scale were used. RESULTS: All subjects completed the study. During the inpatient period both drugs reduced alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but the decrease was more marked in the zonisamide group. At the end of the study (week 3) participants treated with zonisamide showed lower CIWA-Ar scores than subjects receiving diazepam. Also, individuals in the zonisamide group had less craving for alcohol, less anxiety, and less daytime sedation compared with participants treated with diazepam. CONCLUSION: Zonisamide can be a valuable alternative to benzodiazepines in the prevention of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.