LAS VEGAS – Alpha-2 agonists and a handful of other agents work at least as well as benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal, and they’re safer, according to Dr. José R. Maldonado. That’s why he advises against using benzodiazepines to treat alcohol withdrawal.
The risks of benzodiazepines include delirium, confusion, and respiratory depression. In addition, patients are more likely to go back to drinking if they undergo detox with benzodiazepines rather than a medication from another drug class, said Dr. Maldonado of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford (Calif.) University.
And perhaps most significantly, chronic alcohol abuse downregulates the receptors targeted by benzodiazepines, which means that people can still go into withdrawal despite the use of these drugs.