Mental health

Treatment of alcohol withdrawal delirium

Question 3: In the treatment of alcohol withdrawal delirium, are benzodiazepines or antipsychotics safe and effective when compared to a placebo/appropriate comparator to produce benefit/harm in the specified outcomes?

Management of alcohol use disorder

  • Population: patients with alcohol withdrawal delirium
  • Interventions: sedative-hypnotic or antipsychotic medications
  • Comparison: placebo/comparator
  • Outcomes:
    • control of alcohol withdrawal delirium
    • mortality
    • adverse effects of medication (where appropriate) and their compliance.


Benzodiazepines should be used for the treatment alcohol withdrawal delirium.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Antipsychotic medications should not be used as stand alone treatment for alcohol withdrawal delirium.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Antipsychotics should only be used as an adjunct to benzodiazepines in severe withdrawal delirium which has not responded to adequate doses of benzodiazepines.
Strength of recommendation: STRONG

Evidence profile