Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Top tips:

  1. Abstinence from alcohol is the best way to improve outcomes in patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis. In alcohol related liver disease, even 1 or 2 drinks per day can increase mortality.
  2. Some patients won’t be ready or able to quit completely. For those patients who struggle to quit completely, continue to support them with encouragement, motivational interviewing and pharmacotherapy to help them achieve abstinence.
  3. It is important to screen for concurrent mental health concerns alongside addiction. Patients with these issues require further management.

Order panel for Alcohol use disorder:

For adults admitted with Alcohol use disorder:

Alcohol Use Disorder in Cirrhosis Order Panel

General Cirrhosis Admission and Discharge Order Sets

*Add specific panels to general admission orders as appropriate*

For adults with cirrhosis requiring hospital admission
Cirrhosis Adult Admission Orders

For adults with cirrhosis requiring hospital discharge
Cirrhosis Adult Discharge Orders

Dr. Mellinger cartoon
Monty cartoon

Check out the bottom of the page for short videos from Dr. Mellinger and Dr. Ghosh!


Under Development




Information about AUD relapse prevention medications
Medication: Acamprosate
Dose: 666 mg po TID; 333 mg po TID if renal impairment (CrCl 30 to 50 mL/min) or weight <60 kg; Generally abstinence for >3 days before initiation, although studies show reduction in heavy drinking days even when initiated prior to abstinence.
Contraindications: Creatinine clearance <30 ml/min
Considerations: Pregnancy risk category ‘C’; As above, consider in pregnant women if potential benefit outweighs risk; Although TID dosing is cumbersome, it may be useful for patients who cannot take naltrexone due to liver disease or taking opioids or with polypharmacy because no significant interactions with other drugs; Caution if depression or suicidal ideation;
Side Effects: GI upset ; somnolence, rarely suicidality
Monitoring: Initial close weekly follow-up may be helpful; Monitor renal function and adjust dose if CrCl 30-50 ml/min
Health Canada for AUD: Approved
Coverage: Funded via Special Authorization Request Form for Income Support, AISH or AB Adult Health Benefit. View Alberta Blue Cross Drug Special Authorization Request. Limited use benefit under NIHB (abstinent >3 days and enrolled in treatment program where available, prior approval required).
Est. cost with no coverage ~ $200/mo.

Medication: Gabapentin
Dose: With history of Hepatic Encephalopathy: Start low dose – 100 mg po TID and titrate up as tolerated. Without Hepatic encephalopathy: 300 mg po day one, 300 mg po BID day 2 ; 300 mg po TID day 3; increasing by 300 mg po each day up to 600 mg TID on day 6 as tolerated; abstinence at 12 weeks 4.1% placebo group; 11.1% gabapentin 900 mg/day; 17% for 1,800 mg/day.
Contraindications: Decrease dose with renal impairment. Start at lower doses with Hepatic encephalopathy.
Considerations: Risk of dependence in post-marketing database; increased risk of CNS depression esp. with opioids and other CNS depressants; Pregnancy risk category ‘C’; Consider in pregnant women if potential benefit outweighs risk
Side Effects: Somnolence, dizziness, ataxia, fatigue, nystagmus, tremor
Monitoring: Routine monitoring not required; consider if renal impairment
Health Canada for AUD: Not approved
Coverage: Drug benefit under Income Support, AISH, AAHB, NIHB and CFS
Est. cost with no coverage ~$30/mo. partial coverage by many drug plans

Medication: Baclofen
Dose: Initiated at 5mg TID with increases 3-5 days based on patient tolerance and absence of side effects. The maximum recommended dose for alcohol related liver disease is 15mg TID. Higher doses can be tried but with extreme caution due to limited evidence and increased risk of side effects
Contraindications: Care must be taken in patients with both renal and liver disease. This drug should be avoided in individuals with hepatic encephalopathy. Due to a lack of studies, baclofen should be avoided in pregnant patients. Baclofen toxicity can lead to overdose. Caution must be taken for individuals with severe suicide risk.
Considerations: The maximum recommended dose for alcoholic liver disease is 15mg TID. Care must be taken for patients with renal failure or hepatorenal failure, as baclofen is predominantly excreted renally, and impairments in excretion can lead to delirium, and drug toxicity and doses of 5mg TID max should be prescribed in this setting. Operation of heavy machinery is discouraged when first using the medication until they learn how the sedation affects them or they reach a stable dose.
Side Effects: Severe sedation, dizziness, and/or confusion. Potentially dangerous side effects are seizures, respiratory depression with sleep apnea and potentially coma (in case of intoxication), severe mood disorders (mania or depression, with the risk of suicide), and mental confusion/delirium
Monitoring: No specific monitoring required.
Health Canada for AUD: Not approved
Coverage: Drug benefit under Income Support. Covered by many private drug plans.
Est. cost with no coverage If 80% covered by a private drug plan, cost to patient: $6/month, based on 60 mg daily. Cost to patient if no coverage: $28/month.

Introducing Dr. Mellinger and Dr. Ghosh

Video 1 – Practical tips on how to decide if a patient with cirrhosis needs alcohol use disorder therapy, if they are ready for it and what agent to choose.

Video 2 – Practical tips to accessing support for alcohol use disorder therapy in Alberta – how to refer your patient for counselling and how to get help with prescribing relapse prevention medications.


Use these calculators to help with the diagnosis:

AUDIT-C calculator


This section was adapted from content using the following evidence based resources in combination with expert consensus. The presented information is not intended to replace the independent medical or professional judgment of physicians or other health care providers in the context of individual clinical circumstances to determine a patient’s care.

Authors: Dr. Monty Ghosh, Dr. Jessica Mellinger, Dr. Kathryn Dong, Dr. Laura Evans, Dr. Nicholas Mitchell, Dr. Meredith Borman, Emily Johnson, Dr. Puneeta Tandon


  1. Crabb DW et al. Diagnosis and Treatment of Alcohol-Related Liver Diseases: 2019 Practice Guidance from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology 2019 July 17 epub ahead of print, PMID 31314133

We would really appreciate your feedback to make this page better. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

How would you best describe yourself?
I found this webpage useful
The content on this page is easy to navigate
I found what I was looking for on the page
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments