[Impact of personality on the alcohol withdrawal syndrome intensity: a preliminary study with the Cloninger's model].Encephale 2007 May-Jun; 33(3 Pt 1):264-9E
The personality of alcohol dependant patients as a factor influencing the intensity of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome has been seldom examined. Cloninger's biosocial model of personality describes four temperaments (novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence, persistence) which, except for persistence, are admittedly linked to specific central neurotransmitters, and three characters. Novelty seeking is linked with low levels of mesencephalic dopamine, harm avoidance with high levels of serotonin in the septo-hippocampic system and reward dependence with low levels of noradrenaline in the ascending pathways from the locus coeruleus to the limbic system. The same neurotransmitters pathways are known to be involved in alcohol withdrawal, with a decrease of dopaminergic activity in the mesolimbic system, a decrease of serotonergic activity in the nucleus accumbens and an increase of the noradrenergic system. In view of the similarities between the neurobiological systems involved in Cloninger's model and in the neurobiological changes occurring during the withdrawal period, one would expect to observe severe withdrawal symptoms more frequently for patients with high novelty seeking, low harm avoidance and low reward dependence.
To test this hypothesis, alcohol dependent patients according to DSM IV classification criteria who have drunk in the last twenty four hours were included in the study and received a standardized withdrawal treatment. The withdrawal syndrome intensity was examined with repeated measures of CIWA-Ar, the scores of which were correlated with TCI-R.
Twenty eight patients, between 30 et 65 years old and drinking 22,2 +/- 12 standard drinks per day were included. Antidepressant drugs, benzodiazepines and neuroleptics treatment introduced before hospitalisation were stopped or decreased as much as possible. A correlation matrix was carried out between all the variables which could influence withdrawal intensity (age at the hospitalisation, age at the begining of the dependance, ratio between the time of the dependance and the patients' age, the number of alcohol withdrawals carried out and the number of standard drinks per day), and showed a positive correlation between the number of standard drinks per day and withdrawal intensity at day 3 (r=0.7, p<0.000), at day 4 (r=0.52, p<0.005), at day 7 (r=0.41, p<0.036) and at day 8 (r=0.44, p<0.02); as between the ratio between the time of the dependance and the patients' age and withdrawal intensity at day 2 (r=0.43, p<0.03) and at day 5 (r=0.5, p<0.01). Therefore, partial correlations were calculated between the dimensions of personality and withdrawal intensity. The study showed a positive correlation between withdrawal intensity and harm avoidance from day 5 onwards (r=0.6 and P<0.003 at day 5, r=0.59 and P<0.004 at day 6, r=0.56 and P<0.006 at day 7, r=0.66 and P<0.001 at day 8), a negative correlation between withdrawal intensity and reward dependence at day 7 and 8 (r=- 0.45 and P<0.037 at day 7, r=- 0.49 and P<0.02 at day 8) and a negative correlation between withdrawal intensity and persistence from day 6 onwards (r=- 0.5 and P<0.017 at day 6, r=- 0.5 and P<0.019 at day 7, r=- 0.51 and P<0.014 at day 8). No correlation was found between withdrawal intensity and novelty seeking. The same relevant results were found again with the 22 patients without anti-depressant drugs' population.
Personality dimensions seem to influence alcohol withdrawal intensity once the severe symptomatology is over, while high doses of anti withdrawal treatment in the first days of abstinence may decrease the influence of personality on withdrawal symptoms. The positive correlation between harm avoidance and withdrawal intensity seems to invalidate our neurobiological hypotheses, but can be explained by clinical observations and corroborate studies assessing the influence of personality in benzodiazepine withdrawal intensity and in pain perception. This result encourages the introduction of support therapy during withdrawal and a cognitive-behavioural therapy before withdrawal in order to decrease patients' sensitivity to anxiety. The negative correlation between reward dependence and withdrawal intensity confirms the neurobiological hypotheses, but the weak correlation demands to be cautious in the interpretation of the results. The negative correlation between persistence and withdrawal intensity was expected.
The characteristics associated with persistence seem to act as protective factors during alcohol withdrawal, whereas those associated with harm avoidance appear to increase the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. In contrast, the neurobiological hypotheses are only partially confirmed.