eISSN: 2720-5371
ISSN: 1230-2813
Advances in Psychiatry and Neurology/Postępy Psychiatrii i Neurologii
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1/2022
vol. 31
 
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abstract:
Original article

High levels of benzodiazepines after treatment of moderate alcohol withdrawal syndrome: the problem of incomplete detoxification

Anna R. Basińska-Szafrańska
1, 2

1.
Psychiatric Specialist Outpatient Clinics of Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw, Poland
2.
Department of Prevention and Treatment of Addictions, Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw, Poland
Adv Psychiatry Neurol 2022; 31 (1): 1-5
Online publish date: 2022/03/22
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Purpose
Some alcohol-dependence relapses occur soon after a concluded detoxification treatment. A popular agent used in that treatment is diazepam, which effectively relieves withdrawal symptoms due to its long half-life and affinity to the same receptors. It is hypothesized here that these attributes, after nominally completed detoxification, result in, respectively, persisting benzodia­zepine (BZD) influence and a distorted (optimistic) clinical presentation. This could contribute to later reemergence of withdrawal symptoms caused by delayed final elimination of BZDs, as the evidence puts into doubt the concept of a gentle self-taper of a long-acting drug.

Methods
Serum-BZD concentration levels were measured with a radioimmunoassay at the end of routine treatment of moderately-intense alcohol withdrawal syndrome. These data were cross-referenced with individual diazepam administration schedules, including the maximal daily dose and the day of its administration, and the day of overall diazepam cessation.

Results
Most patients revealed clinically relevant serum-BZD levels. These correlated with the doses but also with the day of maximal-dose administration and the day of diazepam withdrawal.

Conclusions
The confrontation with actual abstinence comes after detoxification. Delayed elimination of diazepam may be a contri­buting factor in the re-emergence of symptoms and early post-detox relapses. The optimization of the procedure has been discussed in terms of concentration evolution and known treatment schedules. Maximal initial dosage compression and further decisive counteracting the tendencies of diazepam towards accumulation increase the patient’s chance of going through the low-concentration crisis under medical assistance.

keywords:

alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine concentration, post-detox relapses

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