Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is a collection of symptoms visible when an individual abruptly withdraws from alcohol consumption. It is due to alcohol’s ability to induce physiological dependence. This syndrome is characterized by neuropsychiatric excitability and autonomic disturbances that can get even severe when exposed to a variety of sedative hypnotics like alcohol. Withdrawals occurs when blood levels start to decrease and can be alleviated by reintroduction of a cross tolerant agent or alcohol itself.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Age, genetics, degree of alcohol intake, length of time the individual is abusing alcohol and the number of previous detoxification are key variables in the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can vary from mild to to life threatening. An individual suffering from the withdrawal may experience seizures and delirium tremens that can eventually lead to excito-neurotoxicity. The symptoms of the withdrawal includes but are not limited to agitation, anorexia, diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, hypertension, fever, nausea, restlessness, headache, depression, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, euphoria, palpitations, vomiting and even death.
Protracted withdrawal syndrome is referred to as the post acute withdrawal syndrome. It takes place beyond the acute withdrawal stage, gradually decreasing over time at low intensities. Some protracted withdrawal symptoms include craving for alcohol, a feeling of displeasure over things that were normally pleasurable, nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Treatments and Remedies for Withdrawal Symptoms
Recommended treatments for withdrawal syndrome are drugs that are categorized as benzodiazepines such as diazepam, lorazepam anti psychotic agents such as haloperidol, anti-convulsants such as topiramate carbamazepine, barbiturates, donidine and vitamins.
Benzodiazepines are generally safe and effective for subduing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is also used in alcohol detoxification. Chlordiazepoxide and diazepam are the commonly used type in withdrawal treatments. Not only can benzodiazepines treat withdrawal, it can also be life saving if delirium tremens occur frequently during withdrawal. Furthermore, benzodiazepines has also the capacity to alleviate cravings for alcohol in individuals who had resolved to lessen their intake of alcohol.
On the other hand, haloperidol, a kind of anti psychotic agent can also be effective in treating withdrawal especially in controlling agitation or psychosis, However, it may be possible that there can be worsening of the withdrawal effects since anti psychotics agents lowers the seizure threshold subjectively on some patients.
Topiramate carbamazepine and other anti-convulsants are used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal though it has not yet been fully proven with further research.
Other effective treatments include baclofen which is just as effective as diazepam, barbiturates are commonly used in severe cases, clonidine, flumazenil, trazadone, magnesium and even alcohol itself are also used. Vitamins are also recommended for patients by experts. It is also advised to refrain from smoking since smoking can interfere with the recovery of brain pathways of the patients.
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