Absolutely! For patients with chronic alcohol dependence, any acute decline in their BAL may precipitate withdrawal (1).
For example, if a patient typically drinks enough alcohol on a daily basis to sustain a BAL of 350 mg/dl, any significant drop in BAL (e.g. down to 125 mg/dl) may be associated with early signs of withdrawal such as nervousness, tachycardia and elevated blood pressure.
Another scenario that could lead to withdrawal symptoms despite an elevated BAL involves patients who use both alcohol and benzodiazepines chronically. In such patients— because the 2 substances have cross-reactive effects on the brain— a significant reduction in the dose or frequency of benzodiazepines may also lead to withdrawal despite an elevated BAL. Also remember that symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may begin within 24 h or up to 2 weeks following its cessation (2).
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- Roffman JL, Stern TA. Alcohol withdrawal in the setting of elevated blood alcohol levels. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006; 8(3):170-173 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1540391/
- Greenberg MI. Benzodiazepine withdrawal: potentially fatal, commonly missed, Emergency Medicine News 2001;23:18. https://journals.lww.com/em-news/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2001&issue=12000&article=00013&type=Fulltext
Contributed by Stephanie Meller, MD, Boston, MA