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Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(1):61-6.

Complications of alcohol withdrawal: pathophysiological insights.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.


Disease processes or events that accompany acute alcohol withdrawal (AW) can cause significant illness and death. Some patients experience seizures, which may increase in severity with subsequent AW episodes. Another potential AW complication is delirium tremens, characterized by hallucinations, mental confusion, and disorientation. Cognitive impairment and delirium may lead to a chronic memory disorder (i.e., Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome). Psychiatric problems associated with withdrawal include anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. In addition, alterations in physiology, mood, and behavior may persist after acute withdrawal has subsided, motivating relapse to heavy drinking. Recent advances in neurobiology may support the development of improved medications to decrease the risk of AW complications and support long-term sobriety.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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