Physical Dependence - Symptoms

Symptoms

Physical dependence can manifest itself in the appearance of both physical and psychological symptoms which are caused by physiological adaptions in the central nervous system and the brain due to chronic exposure to a substance. Symptoms which may be experienced during withdrawal or reduction in dosage include increased heart rate and/or blood pressure, sweating, and tremors. More serious withdrawal symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and visual hallucinations indicate a serious emergency and the need for immediate medical care. Sedative hypnotic drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates are the only commonly available substances that can be fatal in withdrawal due to their propensity to induce withdrawal convulsions. Abrupt withdrawal from other drugs, such as opioids can cause an extremely physiologically and psychologically painful withdrawal that is very rarely fatal in patients of general good health and with medical treatment, but is more often fatal in patients with weakened cardiovascular systems; toxicity is generally caused by the often-extreme increases in heart rate and blood pressure (which can be treated with clonidine), or due to arrhythmia due to electrolyte imbalance caused by the inability to eat, and constant diarrhea and vomiting (which can be treated with loperamide and ondansetron respectively) associated with acute opioid withdrawal, especially in longer-acting substances where the diarrhea and emesis can continue unabated for weeks, although life-threatening complications are extremely rare, and nearly non-existent with proper medical management. Dependence itself and chronic intoxication on psychostimulants can cause mild-to-moderate neurotoxic effects due to hyperthermia and generation of free radicals.; this is treated with discontinuation; life-threatening complications are nonexistent.

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