Alcohol detoxification and withdrawal seizures: clinical support for a kindling hypothesis

Biol Psychiatry. 1988 Mar 1;23(5):507-14. doi: 10.1016/0006-3223(88)90023-6.


There has been speculation that a kindling model may have applicability to alcohol withdrawal syndromes and seizures, suggesting that repeated alcohol withdrawals may lead to increased severity of subsequent withdrawals. We evaluated historical and clinical variables of a group of male alcoholics with (n = 25) and without (n = 25) alcohol withdrawal seizures. We found that the number of detoxifications appeared to be an important variable in the predisposition to withdrawal seizures. The withdrawal seizure group had 12 of 25 (48%) patients with 5 or more previous detoxifications, compared to only 3 of 25 (12%) of the control group. A relationship between alcohol use history and withdrawal seizures was not supported by the data. These findings support the concept that previous alcohol withdrawals may "kindle" more serious subsequent withdrawal symptomatology, ultimately culminating in withdrawal seizures.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / physiopathology
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / rehabilitation*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kindling, Neurologic*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychoses, Alcoholic / rehabilitation*
  • Risk Factors