14 June 2002
Alcohol cravings and anxiety do not increase with repeat detoxification
People with alcohol problems have no greater anxiety or cravings after the second, third or fourth detoxification than the first, according to a new study by experimental psychologists at the University of Sussex.
Previous studies have shown that the risk of seizures can increase with subsequent detoxifications due to the effects of withdrawal from alcohol. In this study, published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, no effect of multiple detoxifications was seen on subjective factors of mood and desire to drink.
"Although anxiety is increased in alcohol-dependent patients, there is no relationship between the number of detoxifications and anxiety scores," says the study's author, Dr Theodora Duka.
"Similarly our data suggest that, although craving for alcohol measured as 'mild desires and intentions to drink' increases and 'control over drinking' decreases in alcohol-dependent patients, there is no relationship between the number of detoxifications and craving scores," Dr Duka says.
"Severity of anxiety measures did not follow increased experience of withdrawal from alcohol, although the severity of anxiety was confirmed to vary with the severity of dependence," she adds.
The study included 85 subjects, 43 defined as alcohol dependent and 42 volunteer controls who were social drinkers but not alcoholics. The alcoholic patients were enrolled from a drug-abuse clinic and were undergoing alcohol detoxification during the study.
Aside from being tested for craving and anxiety, subjects were assessed with a colour-naming task in which they were presented with cards showing words printed in different colours. Some of the words were drinking-related (e.g. 'pub', 'beer'), while others were words related to positive or negative emotional and physical states induced by alcohol (e.g. 'calm', 'vomit'). Subjects were asked to name the colour of the words. The researchers counted errors such as naming the wrong colour or reading the word instead of naming the colour.
The patients who had gone through multiple detoxifications made more errors on the alcohol-related words with negative connotations such as 'withdrawal', 'vomit' and 'hangover' than those who had been through one detoxification. "Participants with a higher number of detoxifications are more sensitized to respond emotionally to such words," the researchers say.
They also found that people who started drinking at an early age were more likely to have undergone multiple detoxification treatments.
The study was funded with a grant from the Medical Research Council.
Notes for editors
Dr Theodora Duka can be contacted on 01273 678879, email email@example.com.
Press Office contacts: Alison Field or Peter Simmons, tel. 01273 678888, fax 01273 877456, email A.Field@sussex.ac.uk or P.J.Simmons@sussex.ac.uk.
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