Anticonvulsant drugs in the treatment of substance withdrawal

Drugs Today (Barc). 2004 Jul;40(7):603-19. doi: 10.1358/dot.2004.40.7.850478.


Although detoxification cannot, in itself, be considered a treatment for addiction, it is one of the most pivotal phases. In order to facilitate entry into recovery and/or rehabilitation programs, a detoxification treatment has to be experienced as easy and safe by the patient. In consideration of the many inconveniences related to standard withdrawal treatments, there is an interest in developing alternative pharmacological strategies. The main rationales for using anticonvulsants in substance-abuse patients are their lack of addiction potential, evidence support a role of kindling mechanisms in withdrawal syndromes and their efficacy in comorbid psychiatric disorders. The available data currently support the utilization of carbamazepine as a treatment for detoxification from benzodiazepines, alcohol and opiates, and as a useful agent to reduce cocaine consumption. The use of valproate is well corroborated for alcohol detoxification and it seems to be a promising treatment for the reduction of cocaine use; however, it has been found to be ineffective against benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Some preliminary data suggest that lamotrigine could be useful in opiate and cocaine dependence. Gabapentin shows potential as a treatment for cocaine dependence, and some case reports have stimulated interest in this agent for alcohol and benzodiazepine detoxification. Due to its particular pharmacological profile, topiramate is one of the most interesting newer anticonvulsants. It has been found to be efficacious in opiate and possibly benzodiazepine detoxification and also has theoretical potential as a preventive therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / drug therapy
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Narcotics / adverse effects
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Narcotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol
  • Cocaine