Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome - Pathophysiology - Kindling

Kindling

See also: Kindling (substance withdrawal)

Kindling is the phenomenon where repeated alcohol detoxifications lead to an increased severity of the withdrawal syndrome. For example, binge drinkers may initially experience no withdrawal symptoms but with each period of resumption of drinking followed by abstinence their withdrawal symptoms intensify in severity and may eventually result in full blown delirium tremens with convulsive seizures. Alcoholics who experience seizures during hospital detoxification have been found to be much more likely to have experienced more previous alcohol detoxification episodes than alcoholics who did not have seizures. Those experiencing previous detoxification are more likely to have more medically complicated alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Kindling can cause complications and may increase the risk of relapse, alcohol-related brain damage and cognitive deficits. Chronic alcohol misuse and kindling via multiple alcohol withdrawals may lead to permanent alterations in the GABAA receptors.

The mechanism behind kindling is sensitization of some neuronal systems and desensitization of other neuronal systems which leads to increasingly gross neurochemical imbalances. This in turn leads to more profound withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, convulsions and neurotoxicity.

Binge drinking is associated with increased impulsivity, impairments in spatial working memory and impaired emotional learning. These adverse effects are believed to be due to the neurotoxic effects of repeated withdrawal from alcohol on aberrant neuronal plasticity and cortical damage. Repeated periods of acute intoxication followed by acute detoxification has profound effects on the brain and is associated with an increased risk of seizures as well as cognitive deficits. The effects on the brain are similar to those seen in alcoholics who have been detoxified multiple times but not as severe as in alcoholics who have no history of prior detox. Thus the acute withdrawal syndrome appears to be the most important factor in causing damage or impairment to brain function. The brain regions most sensitive to harm from binge drinking are the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.

People in adolescence who experience multiple withdrawals from binge drinking show impairments of long-term nonverbal memory. Alcoholics who have had two or more alcohol withdrawals show more frontal lobe cognitive dysfunction than alcoholics who have experienced one or no prior withdrawals. Kindling of neurons is the proposed cause of withdrawal related cognitive damage. Kindling from multiple withdrawals leads to accumulating neuroadaptational changes. Kindling may also be the reason for cognitive damage seen in binge drinkers.

Read more about this topic:  Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, Pathophysiology

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