Journal of Medical Toxicology

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 55–60 | Cite as

Resistant alcohol withdrawal: Does an unexpectedly large sedative requirement identify these patients early?

  • J. B. HackEmail author
  • R. S. Hoffman
  • L. S. Nelson
Toxicology Investigations



While most patients with alcohol withdrawal (AW) respond to standard treatment that includes doses of benzo-diazepines, nutrition and good supportive care (non resistant alcohol withdrawal-NRAW), a subgroup may resist therapy (resistant alcohol withdrawal-RAW). This study describes a distinct group of AW patients, their sedative requirements, and hospital courses.


Over a period of 6 months, AW patients requiring 50 mg diazepam IV in the first hour were followed. We recorded admission indices and diazepam doses with vital signs at 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, and 24 hours. Patients were considered to have RAW if they required additional sedatives for control of symptoms and/or were having persistent abnormal vital signs despite the physicians’ choices of therapy.


Nineteen patients were enrolled; all had similar admission indices. While the 4 NRAW had normal vital signs within 3 hours, all 15 RAW patients had abnormal vital signs; 15 RAW patients required escalating diazepam doses — 14 required barbiturates, 7 were intubated, and 5 had hypotension. Comparing groups: interval and total diazepam doses were not different at 1, 2, and 3 hours; interval doses at 6 and 12 hours, and total doses at 6, 12, and 24 hours were significantly different.


RAW patients require large doses of benzodiazepine administration, additional sedatives, and undergo complicated hospitalizations.


alcohol withdrawal delirium resistance 


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Copyright information

© American College of Medical Toxicology 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York City Poison CenterNew York
  2. 2.Brody School of MedicineEast Carolina UniversityGreenville
  3. 3.New York UniversityNew York

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