Benzodiazepine resistant alcohol withdrawal: What is the clinician's preferred definition?

Hugo Langlois, Monique Cormier, Eric Villeneuve, Robert S. Hoffman, Cristina Longo, Sophie Gosselin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: Although alcohol withdrawal is common, the recognition of benzodiazepine-resistant alcohol withdrawal is a relatively new concept. To provide a framework for both literature review and future research, we assessed clinicians' personal definition of resistant alcohol withdrawal. Method: We developed a cross-sectional web-based survey. Administrators from collaborating toxicology and emergency medicine associations deployed the survey directly to their respective memberships. Only physicians, pharmacists, and other clinicians routinely treating alcohol withdrawal were eligible to participate. Respondents selected their preferred definition among the three most common author sources - JB Hack, NJ Benedict, D Hughes - or provided their own. Additional criteria to define resistant alcohol withdrawal were explored. Results: 384 individuals answered the survey. Respondents were mostly attending physicians (79%), in full-time practice (90%), in emergency medicine (70%), and from North America (90%). The majority (64%) described resistant alcohol withdrawal as a high benzodiazepine dosage. Seizures (26%) and persistent tachycardia (16%) were also main characteristics. The median dose to describe high benzodiazepine dose (n = 146) was 40 mg per hour of diazepam equivalents (IQR 20-50). Available definitions were ranked equally as the preferred one: Hack (27%); Benedict (28%); Hughes (28%).Conclusion Our results did not identify one single preferred definition for resistant alcohol withdrawal even though a high total dose of benzodiazepine is a major component. Hourly requirements of 40 mg of diazepam equivalents or more emerged as a possible threshold. These findings serve as a base to explore consensus guidelines or future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-169
Number of pages5
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Drugs and pharmacology
  • emergency medicine
  • resistant alcohol withdrawal
  • toxicology

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