Lorazepam for the prevention of recurrent seizures related to alcohol

N Engl J Med. 1999 Mar 25;340(12):915-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199903253401203.


Background and methods: Alcohol abuse is one of the most common causes of seizures in adults. In a randomized, double-blind study, we compared lorazepam with placebo for the prevention of recurrent seizures related to alcohol. Over a 21-month period, we studied consecutive patients with chronic alcohol abuse who were at least 21 years of age and who presented to the emergency departments of two hospitals in Boston after a witnessed, generalized seizure. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either 2 mg of lorazepam in 2 ml of normal saline or 4 ml of normal saline intravenously and then observed for six hours. The primary end point was the occurrence of a second seizure during the observation period.

Results: Of the 229 patients who were initially evaluated, 186 met the entry criteria. In the lorazepam group, 3 of 100 patients (3 percent) had a second seizure, as compared with 21 of 86 patients (24 percent) in the placebo group (odds ratio for seizure with the use of placebo, 10.4; 95 percent confidence interval, 3.6 to 30.2; P<0.001). Forty-two percent of the placebo group were admitted to the hospital, as compared with 29 percent of the lorazepam group (odds ratio for admission, 2.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 4.0; P=0.02). Seven patients in the placebo group and one in the lorazepam group were transported to an emergency department in Boston with a second seizure within 48 hours after hospital discharge.

Conclusions: Treatment with intravenous lorazepam is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of recurrent seizures related to alcohol.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Lorazepam / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Seizures / prevention & control*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / prevention & control


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Ethanol
  • Lorazepam