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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.

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  • 1Service of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.



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.


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).


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.


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.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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