Questions and Answers about Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: Part II

Q: What determines the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

A: The severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms depends not on the amount of alcohol a person drank, but on the imbalance of his or her glutamate and GABA neurotransmitter levels. Of course there are other factors involved such as malnutrition and dehydration. Basically any factors that are related to the patient’s imbalance of neurotransmitters determine the severity and progression of each individual’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms and detoxification. To learn more about this all-important and fascinating balance between the glutamate and GABA neurotransmitters, you can go to my YouTube video where I explain the relationship between alcohol use and the GABA and glutamate balance.

Q: What are the different levels of alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

A: Patients in the hospital suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms are classified in one of three levels: mild withdrawal, moderate withdrawal, or severe withdrawal. Patients with mild alcohol withdrawal are very shaky, but do not get delirium tremens. They experience some tremor as well as hypertension, and they do well with minimal medications. Their GABA to glutamate differential is temperate. Patients experiencing moderate alcohol withdrawal have a greater discrepancy between their GABA and glutamate levels. This greater imbalance puts the patient in a state of hypervigilance with a rapid heart rate, supraventricular tachycardia, and significant agitation. The patients experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal have glutamate that is exceedingly high and GABA that is incredibly low. They experience delirium tremens and other complications like visual hallucinations and possibly seizure activity.

I’ll explain what you can do to combat these alcohol withdrawal symptoms in my next post. Or you can find out more in my book, Brain In Balance: Understanding the Genetics and Neurochemistry behind Addiction and Sobriety.