Journal Name: Current Drug Metabolism

Author(s): Carmen Mannucci, Simona Pichini, Elvira Ventura Spagnolo, Fabrizio Calapai, Sebastiano Gangemi, Michele Navarra, Gioacchino Calapai*.


Graphical Abstract:


Background: Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB or sodium oxybate) is both an exogenous and endogenous molecule with neuromodulator properties. In the United States, GHB is an approved drug for the treatment of narcolepsy and narcolepsy with cataplexy in adults. In some European Union countries, sodium oxybate is applied for the treatment of opioid and alcohol withdrawal.

Objective: The aim of the present review was to describe the state of art of the pre-clinical research and the clinical evidence related to GHB used alone or in combination with other treatments in alcohol withdrawal syndrome and alcohol abstinence maintenance.

Method: Internationally published pre-clinical findings and clinical studies investigating the effects of GHB on alcohol withdrawal syndrome and alcohol abstinence maintenance were collected and described considering seven clinical studies involving GHB in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal abstinence and five clinical studies involving GHB in the treatment of alcohol abstinence maintenance. Furthermore, GHB pharmacology and characteristics of abuse were briefly detailed.

Results: Clinical evidence indicates that GHB is effective in reducing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome and produces beneficial effects comparable to those of benzodiazepines or chlometiazole. GHB proved effective in increasing alcohol abstinence maintenance and in reducing alcohol craving, but it did not show any influence in relapses of heavy drinkers when given alone. Conversely, it seems to be effective in reducing relapses in alcohol dependent patients when given in combination with naltrexone and escitalopram.

Conclusion: Despite this bunch of evidence, studies are still limited and investigations including a larger number of patients are needed. In addition, some safety concerns, such as insufficiency against hallucinations in alcohol withdrawal and potential development of GHB dependence have to be more investigated.


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