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Effectiveness of Gabapentin in Reducing Cravings and Withdrawal in Alcohol Use Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2019;21(4):19r02465
10.4088/PCC.19r02465

Objective: The current meta-analysis synthesizes previous findings on the effect of gabapentin on alcohol withdrawal and craving.

Data Sources: Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) methodology, a search for relevant English-language literature published between January 1999 and February 2019 was conducted using PubMed and Google Scholar with the keywords alcohol use disorder, alcohol dependence, alcohol withdrawals, alcohol craving, “gabapentin in alcohol use, consumption,” and “gabapentin in alcohol withdrawals.”

Study Selection and Data Extraction: Studies were included wherein gabapentin was used as an adjunctive or primary treatment of alcohol dependence/withdrawal. Studies included participants diagnosed with alcohol use disorder using DSM-IV, DSM-IV-TR, DSM-5, or the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). The search, as well as data extraction, was carried out by 3 blinded authors to preserve precision, using a template in Microsoft Excel to extract the needed data. Following the review of the initial 65 returns, 2 authors independently judged each trial by applying the inclusionary and exclusionary criteria, and any remaining disagreements were resolved by involving a third independent author. A total of 10 studies met the inclusion criteria and were selected for analysis. Subjects in these 10 studies were pooled using standard techniques of meta-analysis.

Data Synthesis: Three sets of meta-analyses examined outcomes from (1) single-group pretest-posttest changes, (2) posttest differences between independent groups, and (3) differences in pretest-posttest change scores between independent groups. Statistically significant effect sizes were found for craving (P < .01) and withdrawal (P < .01, P < .001) in the meta-analysis of single-group pretest-posttest outcome changes and were associated with a high level of heterogeneity. In contrast, the meta-analyses of posttest differences between independent groups—that of differences in pretest-posttest change scores between independent groups—did not yield significant effect sizes.

Conclusions: Our analysis of pooled data provides evidence that the use of gabapentin to manage alcohol withdrawal symptomatology and related cravings is at least moderately effective. However, given the limited number of available well-designed studies, these findings require further support through more rigorously designed studies.