1. Sixty-five alcoholic patients admitted for detoxification had blood pressure, withdrawal symptoms, plasma cortisol (PC) and plasma aldosteron (PA) levels, plasma renin activity (PRA), and serum dopamin β-hydroxylase (DBH) levels measured on the first and fourth days after admission.
2. On the morning after admission blood pressure was elevated (>140/90) in 32 patients (49%) and was 160/95mmHg or more in 21 (32%). PRA was initially elevated in 41 patients, PA levels in 14, and 13 patients had raised PC levels. By the fourth day, blood pressure and bio-chemical measures had fallen significantly while urine volume and sodium output, low on admission, had increased significantly. On admission urinary metanephrine levels were raised in four out of the 31 patients who had them measured.
3. The height of both the systolic and diastolic blood pressures was significantly related to the severity of the alcohol. withdrawal symptoms. Of the biochemical parameters measured, PC level correlated with systolic but not diastolic pressure, and urinary volume was inversely correlated with the height of the diastolic pressure. No relationship was found between blood pressure and PRA or PA level.
4. The pressor effect of alcohol withdrawal could be due to sympathetic nervous system overactivity, or possibly to hypercortisolaemia. The first hypothesis seems more likely.