A pilot open randomized trial of valproate and phenobarbital in the treatment of acute alcohol withdrawal

Richard N. Rosenthal, Charles Ferkel, Prameet Singh, Om Anand, Christian R. Miner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The authors conducted a randomized, open comparison of the GABAergic anticonvulsant sodium valproate (divalproex sodium; Depakote) and phenobarbital as an active control in the management of acute withdrawal from alcohol. Repeated measures ANOVA was used to assess treatment effects in the first 37 inpatients, evaluating mood, hostility, and subjective and objective measures of withdrawal at index, 3, and 5 days of detoxification. Subjective and objective ratings of abstinence symptoms and subjective mood disturbance decreased significantly in intensity in both groups over 5 days, but there were no significant treatment differences nor treatment by time interactions. Hostility scores did not differ overall, but a group by time effect was observed (F = 5.42, df=[1,13], P<0.05), with phenobarbital subjects reporting less hostility/aggression than those in the valproate group. There were no withdrawal-related seizures or other acute sequelae. This study offers pilot confirmation that sodium valproate is as effective as phenobarbital in the management of acute alcohol withdrawal, but it is unclear whether valproate offers a clinical advantage with respect to stabilizing changes in mood and interpersonal hostility during detoxification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


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