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The Efficacy Of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) In Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

Alcoholism has become one of the biggest health menaces of the 20th and 21st centuries. Long-term use of alcohol results in brain damage as a result of cell death. Brain damage results in dysfunction, which affects essential functions such as memory, walking, and coordination. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is one of the biggest challenges that face individuals recovering from alcoholism. Acid-base imbalances within the body manifest in various ways and cause distress to individuals. Ethanol ingested over time affects the central nervous system (CNS), thus affecting neurotransmitter systems and pathways. This, in turn, affects transmissions from the brain to all parts of the body. Alcohol withdrawal requires enormous amounts of energy and, therefore, oxygen. Insufficient supply of oxygen during the withdrawal process leads to inadequate breakdown of glucose. The latter causes the accumulation of lactate and, therefore, lactic acidosis. The result is damage and, finally, death of muscle and nerve cells. Some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include malnutrition, epileptic seizures, and memory. In the long run, if left untreated, dementia and organ failure could result. Some of the forms of treatment that are explored quite often by those battling AWS include pharmacotherapy, precisely psychotropic drugs, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). 

Mechanism of Action

HBOT boosts the recovery process of patients recovering from alcoholism, which aids in the restoration of affected functions. With increased tissue oxygenation, the toxic substances that cause cell death are ejected from the brain, and angiogenesis begins. The precision in the cleansing process plays a crucial role in ensuring recovering addicts do not relapse. With the inclusion of pressurized oxygen, the brain is able to detoxify and heal by itself. There is, therefore, no need to introduce other forms of treatment, such as pharmacotherapy. HBOT also aids in the restoration of homeostasis by boosting the balance of acid-based proportions and water-electrolyte balance that manifest in AWS. It also restores cerebral tissue hypoxia, which results from toxins that accumulate in the brain when alcohol is broken down. Also, serum concentrations of essential minerals and vitamins are restored. These include potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphates and bicarbonates. 

HBOT is preferred by numerous recovering addicts and withdrawal programs such as rehabilitation centers for a couple of reasons. It has minimal side effects on the individuals using it. Long-term use of prescription medication to help with alcohol addiction recovery is associated with brain damage. Also, it provides therapy and relief to parts of the body and brain that other forms of treatment cannot access. 


Epifanova, N. (1995). [Hyperbaric oxygenation in the treatment of patients with drug addiction, narcotic addiction and alcoholism in the post-intoxication and abstinence periods]. PubMed, 3, 34–39.

Kapytau, D., Kapytau, A., Khrushch, I. A., Kudin, L., & Waszkiewicz, N. (2022). The effect of the non-compressed oxygen therapy and hyperbaric oxygenation in combination with standardized drug therapy on the blood Acid-Base state biomarkers in alcohol withdrawal syndrome, an experimental study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13.

Kopytov, D. A., Андреевич, К. Д., Bychenko, I. V., Викторович, Б. И., Kopytov, A., & Васильевич, К. А. (2020). Influence of oxygen therapy methods in comprehensive treatment on cognitive functions at correction of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Nevrologičeskij Vestnik, LII(2), 52–58. 







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