[Alcohol withdrawal syndrome and delirium tremens. Diagnosis and therapy]

T Zilker
MMW Fortschritte der Medizin 1999 August 19, 141 (33): 26-30
The alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be classified into three degrees of severity on the basis of the symptomatology, autonomic withdrawal, predelirium and delirium tremens. In American literature the severity of withdrawal is recorded using the CIWA-A scale (Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment--Alcohol). The pathophysiological causes lie in an imbalance between the inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters after giving up alcohol. This results in predomination by the excitatory system. Therapeutic intervention is possible here. Clomethiazole has effective sedative actions, stabilises the autonomic nervous system, and is an anticonvulsant. It is the drug of choice for autonomic withdrawal and predelirium. The benzodlazepines have a similar effect, but cannot be controlled so accurately. Carbamazepine can prevent withdrawal convulsions and progression of delirium. Clonidine acts on autonomic withdrawal and, together with neuroleptics and benzodiazepines, is easy to use parenterally for delirium tremens, while parenteral clomethiazole harbours dangers.

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