, Volume 131, Issue 2, pp 153-160

Effects of flumazenil in the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal – a double-blind pilot study

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Abstract

Flumazenil, a partial benzodiazepine agonist with low intrinsic activity, was tested for potential use in patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms after traditional treatment for benzodiazepine dependency. On two occasions, separated by 1–13 weeks, ten patients treated for benzodiazepine dependency and ten controls received cumulative doses of flumazenil (0.05, 0.10, 0.25, 0.50 and 1.00 mg at 15-min intervals) or placebo, with assessments of withdrawal symptoms and physiological variables after each dose. As expected, there was an overall difference between patients and controls, with patients scoring higher on negative and somatic items and lower on positive psychological items. Flumazenil reduced symptoms thought to be important in withdrawal in patients treated for benzodiazepine dependency. In contrast to the patient group, controls reacted in the opposite direction with increases in negative experience when given flumazenil. Further research may develop flumazenil as a therapeutic option in the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal.