Safety and effectiveness of a fixed-dose phenobarbital protocol for inpatient benzodiazepine detoxification

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2012 Oct;43(3):331-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2011.12.011. Epub 2012 Jan 28.


Benzodiazepine dependence is a common problem. However, there is limited data on safe and effective detoxification protocols for benzodiazepine-dependent patients. We reviewed the medical records of 310 patients treated with a 3-day fixed-dose phenobarbital taper for benzodiazepine dependence over a 5-year period between 2004 and 2009. We recorded the incidence of seizures, falls, delirium, and emergency department (ED) visits or readmission to our institution within 30 days as markers for safety; we also recorded how many patients had doses held because of sedation. The taper was well tolerated, although one quarter of the patients had at least one dose held because of sedation. There were no seizures, falls, or injuries reported. Six percent had a readmission, and 7% had an ED visit at our institution within 30 days of discharge, but only 3 patients required readmission for withdrawal symptoms. Overall, this protocol appears to be safe and effective.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • GABA Modulators / administration & dosage
  • GABA Modulators / adverse effects
  • GABA Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Phenobarbital / administration & dosage
  • Phenobarbital / adverse effects
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • GABA Modulators
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Phenobarbital