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Defining the Role of Baclofen for the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence

A Systematic Review of the Evidence

Abstract

The pharmacological properties of baclofen, a GABAB receptor agonist, have led to investigation of its use for the off-label treatment of alcohol dependence. Literature examining the role of baclofen in alcohol dependence suggests that it may be a useful medication in the treatment armamentarium with an additional benefit of promoting abstinence and reducing alcohol-associated cravings and anxiety. We conducted a systematic review of prospective, randomized controlled trials comparing baclofen with placebo for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Four randomized controlled trials were identified but only three met criteria for inclusion. The excluded trial was a post hoc analysis of data collected from an original trial whose primary outcome did not fit our inclusion criteria and was terminated prior to completion. Compared with placebo, subjects randomized to baclofen experienced higher rates of abstinence and lower anxiety scores; the effect of baclofen was statistically significant in two trials assessing patients with more severe alcohol dependence and non-significant in a trial of outpatients receiving concomitant manualized psychotherapy. Baclofen appeared to be safe, well tolerated and to have low addiction liability even in the setting of moderate-to-severe liver cirrhosis, a known complication of alcohol dependence. Though baclofen may hold promise, the different outcomes and sample populations of the three studies highlight the need for more research to better understand the appropriate target patient population to benefit from this medication. Questions still remain about optimal dosing and duration. There is not enough evidence to support the use of baclofen as a first-line treatment option, except for those alcohol-dependent patients with moderate-to-severe liver cirrhosis in whom other pharmacological treatments are not safe or practical.

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Acknowledgements

No financial support was received for this publication. The authors of this paper have no sources of financial support or any conflicts of interest relevant to this publication. This paper (in part or in whole) has not been previously presented or published.

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Correspondence to Andrew J. Muzyk Pharm.D., Assistant Professor.

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Muzyk, A.J., Rivelli, S.K. & Gagliardi, J.P. Defining the Role of Baclofen for the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence. CNS Drugs 26, 69–78 (2012). https://doi.org/10.2165/11597320-000000000-00000

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Keywords

  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Naltrexone
  • Baclofen
  • GABAB Receptor
  • Total Daily Dose