Safety Challenges of Using High Dose Baclofen for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Focused Review

Abstract : Since the early 2000s, the gamma-aminobutyric acid type B (GABA-B) receptor agonist baclofen has been extensively used for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD). In some countries, like France, Australia, or Germany, baclofen has been used at patient-tailored dose regimens, which can reach 300 mgpd or even more in some patients. The GABA-B-related pharmacology of baclofen expose patients to a specific profile of neuropsychiatric adverse drug reactions (ADRs), primarily some frequent sedative symptoms whose risk of occurrence and severity are both related to the absolute baclofen dosing and the kinetics of dose variations. Other frequent neuropsychiatric ADRs can occur, i.e., tinnitus, insomnia, or dizziness. More rarely, other serious ADRs have been reported, like seizures, manic symptoms, or sleep apnea. However, real-life AUD patients are also exposed to other sedative drugs, like alcohol of course, but also benzodiazepines, other drugs of abuse, or other sedative medications. Consequently, the occurrence of neuropsychiatric safety issues in these patients is essentially the result of a complex multifactorial exposure, in which baclofen causality is rarely obvious by itself. As a result, the decision of initiating baclofen, as well as the daily dose management should be patient-tailored, according the medical history but also the immediate clinical situation of the patient. The overall safety profile of baclofen, as well as the clinical context in which baclofen is used, have many similarities with the use of opiate substitution medications for opiate use disorder. This empirical statement has many implications on how baclofen should be managed and dosing should be adjusted. Moreover, this constant patient-tailored adjustment can be difficult to adapt in the design of clinical trials, which may explain inconsistent findings in baclofen-related literature on AUD.
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Benjamin Rolland, Nicolas Simon, Nicolas Franchitto. Safety Challenges of Using High Dose Baclofen for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Focused Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers, 2018, 9, pp.367. ⟨10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00367⟩. ⟨inserm-01969917⟩

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