How effective is gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome and the prevention of relapses?
The overall quality of the evidence is generally low. Most trials were from a single country (Italy, n=11), and sample sizes were generally very small (range 17–98 patients). Concern has been raised regarding the risk of developing addiction, misuse or abuse of GHB, especially in polydrug abusers.
The main goals for clinical management of alcohol withdrawal are to minimise the severity of symptoms and facilitate entry into a treatment programme so the person can achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol. Medications used for alcohol withdrawal syndrome include benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, chlormethiazole and GHB, which was first available as a health food and body-building supplement. Reports of adverse events led to its withdrawal for that purpose. Naltrexone and disulfiram are also used to prevent relapses.