Withdrawal, Drug

Withdrawal, Drug is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Neuroexcitation is the hallmark of benzodiazepine, barbiturate, and opiate withdrawal
  • Benzodiazepine and barbiturate withdrawal can be life threatening
  • Opiate withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable but is not typically life threatening
  • Cocaine and amphetamine withdrawal are similarly not life threatening


  • Chronic exposure to certain drugs cause adaptive changes in the CNS
  • Withdrawal syndromes occur when the constant presence of drug is removed or reduced and the adaptive changes persist
  • Tolerance occurs when increasing amounts of drug are required to achieve a given response
  • Withdrawal and tolerance are distinct entities

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