Definition of Autonomic Hyperactivity?
A person with AH will experience one or more of the following symptoms: hallucinations, tremor, agitation, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate. Additional symptoms also include dilated pupils, confusion, delusions and insomnia.
When treating patients with AH, it is most important that the patient is kept comfortable in a quiet, calm environment. Patients are also typically placed in a well-lit environment to avoid any visual misinterpretations that can often come from the hallucinations. Doctors will then work to prevent serious symptoms such as seizures from occurring, and then they will focus on preventing any long-term complications from either the drug treatment or neurological dysfunctions.
Seizures typically occur in 25 to 33 percent of those with AH, and these seizures usually occur early in the course of withdrawal--8 to 24 hours. Ten to 25 percent of hospitalized patients will also experience hallucinations that are usually visual, tactile or auditory. Again, they usually occur within the first 24 to 48 hours. Delirium tremors are the most serious complication and occur later during the course of withdrawal.
AH in a detox setting is most often treated with intravenous doses of morphine or other sedatives such as valium. Patients are also treated with glucose, thiamine (vitamin B12) and other insulin and are monitored extremely closely. Vitamins are recommended, as vitamin deficiency is common among alcohol abusers. One component is not enough to treat AH; there has to be supportive components such as therapy, behavioral, nutritional and pharmacological.
The length of time most patients experience AH is three to 10 days. If left untreated, there is a 20 percent death rate.
AH can be prevented by identifying the syndrome beforehand; usually friends and family are the first to recognize that the abuser cannot withdraw from the alcohol without serious pain. Doctors also administer tests, quite often to patients who are about to have surgery, if they suspect such a problem. These tests ask how many drinks one has per day to avoid further complications.
If you or anyone close to you are experiencing such symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor immediately or head to the closest emergency room.