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Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) for alcohol withdrawal

Updated on April 3, 2012

Chlordiazepoxide is a prescription only medication prescribed for alcohol detoxification. It prevents and treats alcohol withdrawal features in an alcohol dependent person so the alcohol detoxification process becomes more tolerable. Common brand name for chlordiazepoxide is Librium.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Common alcohol withdrawal features are tremors, anxiety, illusions, hallucinations, sweating, nausea, vomiting, seizures and delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is a life threatening response to sudden alcohol withdrawal. It usually occurs 48 hours after the sudden reduction of alcohol dose in an alcohol dependent person.

Some people can get severe alcohol withdrawal seizures. They can be grand mal type with jerky movements of the limbs, frothing and urine/bowel incontinence.

These problems make stopping alcohol a very unpleasant and dangerous option for an alcohol dependent person. However, Chlordiazepoxide prevents most of these symptoms and it even treats them once they are established. Therefore, Chlordiazepoxide is a lifesaving medication and it is helpful drug for the alcohol dependent person.

How Chlordiazepoxide is prescribed for alcohol withdrawal?

Chlordiazepoxide is a prescription only medication and it should be prescribed in a controlled environment like inside a hospital for severe alcohol dependence. However, minor degrees of alcohol dependence can be treated with Chlordiazepoxide as outpatient basis under a medical supervision.

Chlordiazepoxide is prescribed in quite high doses and gradually tailed off. Usual starting dose can go up to 200mgs of drug given per day (six hour intervals). Then the dose is gradually tapered depending on the response.

Problems associated with Chlordiazepoxide therapy for alcohol withdrawal

Since Chlordiazepoxide is a benzodiazepine medication, it can cause severe drowsiness and sedation. But above effects are temporary and will go down once the dose is reduced or drug is stopped. But these side effects make working and driving dangerous, especially when you are needed to perform skilled tasks. It is also dangerous to operate machinery under Chlordiazepoxide.

In addition, it is dangerous in the terms of medical point of view to give this drug to patients with severe liver disease with hepatic encephalopathy. Ironically hepatic encephalopathy and alcohol withdrawal can co-exist. This makes it harder to detoxify people with heavy alcohol consumption as an outpatient.

In addition, Chlordiazepoxide can cause cognitive impairment, and ataxia. These side effects usually wane off once the patient stops the drug.


Chlordiazepoxide is a very useful medication in alcohol withdrawal. It makes alcohol withdrawal more tolerable. Take home message is if you are alcohol dependent, there is hope and you can go to your doctor and enter into alcohol withdrawal program.


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