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Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Jan;57(11):759-64.

Fast withdrawal from benzodiazepines in geriatric inpatients: a randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Author information

  • 1Service of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium. mirko.petrovic@rug.ac.be

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

We have previously demonstrated that temporary substitution with a low-dose hypnosedative drug may lead to successful withdrawal from chronic benzodiazepine (BZD) use in the majority of patients admitted to a geriatric ward. In the present study, a withdrawal programme was evaluated in which the habitual treatment with BZDs was replaced by either 1 mg lormetazepam or placebo, defining withdrawal success rate, sleep quality and withdrawal symptoms as main outcomes.

METHODS:

The target population was geriatric inpatients who had been taking BZDs for at least 3 months. Subjects suffering from mental disorders were excluded. Lormetazepam or placebo were randomly assigned and given in a double-blind fashion. After 1 week, the replacement therapy was discontinued. Subjective estimations of sleep quality and withdrawal symptoms were registered at predefined intervals, four times in a period of 30 days, using standard questionnaires (the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptom Questionnaire, respectively).

RESULTS:

The success rate was significantly higher in the lormetazepam substitution group (80% vs 50% in the placebo group, P < 0.05). Both the subjective quality of sleep and withdrawal symptoms were significantly better in the lormetazepam substitution group. Important withdrawal effects were observed in the control group in two patients with a history of chronic alcohol abuse.

CONCLUSIONS:

Initial replacement therapy with a low-dose BZD is preferred over placebo, since the latter alternative is associated with worse sleep quality and a lower success rate. Placebo must only be used under medical scrutiny, given the potential for unmasking delirious symptoms, especially in patients with concomitant alcoholism.

PMID:
11868796
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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