Withdrawal syndrome is one of the main signs of chronic alcoholism and drug addiction. It is characterized by a number of somatic and psychological disorders (trembling, sweating, heart palpitations, sleep disturbance, etc.) that occur as a result of a sharp cessation of alcohol (narcotic substances) or a decrease in their doses.
Withdrawal syndrome in alcoholics traditionally begins 7-10 hours after the cessation of alcohol intake and lasts from several hours to several days. Reception of alcoholic beverages relieves withdrawal symptoms. At the initial stages of its development, abstinence occurs only after large doses of alcoholic beverages, in the future – regardless of the amount of alcohol taken. Withdrawal syndrome in drug addicts develops when the administration of a narcotic substance is stopped after a day or more. The larger the dose of the narcotic substance administered, the more severe the withdrawal syndrome.
The onset and course of the withdrawal syndrome is limited in time and is related to the type of substance and the dose taken immediately before the cessation or reduction in consumption. As a rule, the signs of withdrawal syndrome are opposite to the signs of acute intoxication.
Mild symptoms . Appear from several hours to 10 days (usually 6-48 hours) after the cessation of alcohol consumption; they do not often disappear when drinking is resumed.
Severe symptoms . The period of appearance is 48-96 hours after the cessation of alcohol consumption. Sometimes alcohol withdrawal syndrome is called only the most severe form – alcoholic delirium, or delirium tremens. However, alcohol withdrawal syndrome is very diverse.
Prodromal symptoms may be subtle (mild irritability and negativism). Sometimes only tremor and auditory hallucinations are observed, and the developed alcoholic delirium does not begin. It is not uncommon for an alcohol withdrawal syndrome to begin with a grand mal seizure (in these cases, other causes of the seizure are ruled out – traumatic brain injury, metabolic causes, infections, in particular meningitis). Therefore, the terms “alcoholic delirium”, “threatening alcoholic delirium” should be used only in cases where the diagnosis is not in doubt.