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October 22, 1997

Pharmacologic Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal

Author Affiliations

Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center Little Rock, Ark

JAMA. 1997;278(16):1317-1318. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550160037027

To the Editor.  —In their meta-analysis, Dr Mayo-Smith and colleagues1 stated that alcohol withdrawal occurred in a wide variety of settings but did not comment on the appropriateness of their suggested guidelines for outpatients vs inpatients. The authors noted that the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment, Alcohol (CIWA-A)2 and the CIWA-A, revised (CIWA-Ar)3 had been used for patients admitted to the hospital (detoxification units, psychiatry units, and general hospital medical/surgical wards), but they did not specify whether these structured assessment scales had been used or were applicable to outpatient settings. Three of the 10 questions on the CIWA-A scale pertain to tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations,2 symptoms that often merit observation in inpatient rather than outpatient settings.4 Thus, these scales might be more applicable to inpatient settings.Symptom-triggered detoxification also might require modification for outpatients. In an outpatient setting, patients might not be assessed for symptoms of withdrawal as