Pilot randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial of high-dose gabapentin for alcohol use disorder

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2021 Aug;45(8):1639-1652. doi: 10.1111/acer.14648. Epub 2021 Jul 5.


Background: Despite advances in the development of pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder (AUD), there remains a need for medications that can be administered to actively drinking outpatients to promote a reduction in harmful alcohol consumption. The primary aim of this pilot study was to determine whether high-dose gabapentin (3600 mg/daily) is more effective than placebo in reducing harmful alcohol consumption in outpatients with AUD.

Methods: Forty patients (27 men) who met DSM-IV-TR criteria for alcohol dependence and reporting at least 4 heavy drinking days (HDD) per week were recruited at a single site. Participants were actively drinking at study entry and received double-blind gabapentin (3600 mg/day; n = 19) or placebo (n = 20) for 8 weeks. Study medication was titrated over 5 days and administered in three divided doses (1200 mg three times per day). The proportion of HDD (primary outcome) and percent days abstinent (PDA; secondary outcome) were analyzed using generalized longitudinal mixed models with the predictors being study arm, week, study arm by week interaction, and corresponding baseline drinking measure.

Results: There was a significant interaction between study arm and week for the proportion of HDD per week, F (7, 215) = 3.33, p = 0.002 . There was also a significant interaction between study arm and week for PDA per week, F (7, 215) = 3.11, p = 0.004. The overall retention rate was 67.5% with no significant difference in time-to-dropout between treatment groups. There were no serious adverse events. No participants were removed from the trial due to the development of moderate-to-severe alcohol withdrawal (CIWA-Ar ≥ 13).

Conclusions: Gabapentin treatment rapidly titrated to a dosage of 3600 mg/day is associated with a reduction in the proportion of HDD per week and an increase in PDA per week in actively drinking outpatients with AUD. High-dose gabapentin is potentially a feasible approach to treating AUD and deserving of further study.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01141049.

Keywords: alcohol use disorder; gabapentin; pharmacotherapy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / drug therapy*
  • Alcoholism / urine
  • Anticonvulsants / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Gabapentin / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Dropouts / statistics & numerical data
  • Pilot Projects


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Gabapentin

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01141049