Original Research

Assessing the revised Clinical Institute Withdrawal for Alcohol Scale use at Stikland Hospital

Creeshen P. Muddapah, Lize Weich
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 29 | a1915 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v29i0.1915 | © 2023 Creeshen P. Muddapah, Lize Weich | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 April 2022 | Published: 31 January 2023

About the author(s)

Creeshen P. Muddapah, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Lize Weich, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a major public health concern in South Africa (SA). Abrupt cessation or reduction of alcohol intake in chronic users can result in withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines are the treatment of choice but need to be used cautiously in patients with a lifetime history of substance abuse given their highly addictive potential. Symptom-triggered prescription of benzodiazepines during alcohol withdrawal using the Revised Clinical Institute Withdrawal for Alcohol Scale (CIWA-Ar) has been associated with improved safety and reduced benzodiazepines use.

Aim: To investigate if implementation of the CIWA-Ar during alcohol detoxification impacted the dose of benzodiazepines used and withdrawal-related outcomes.

Setting: Alcohol rehabilitation unit (ARU) at Stikland Psychiatric Hospital.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study of 135 admissions over a six-month period comparing two groups: before (2015) and after (2017) the implementation of the CIWA-Ar.

Results: The study noted no differences in sociodemographic and alcohol-associated variables between the two groups, and there were no recorded complications in either group. The 2017 group had a lower percentage of patients that required benzodiazepines (33.8% vs. 51.4%, p = 0.04) and a lower median total amount of benzodiazepines used during alcohol withdrawal (0 mg vs. 5 mg, p = 0.01).

Conclusions: The CIWA-Ar rating scale was an effective alternative to prescribing benzodiazepines pro re nata and decreased the total dose of benzodiazepines used during alcohol withdrawal.

Contribution: The use of a symptom triggered regime, like the CIWA-Ar rating scale, during withdrawal can be implemented safely in a SA treatment setting for patients with low-risk AUD.


Keywords

alcohol withdrawal syndrome; alcohol use disorder; benzodiazepines; symptom-triggered detoxification; CIW-Ar; South Africa.

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