Repeated use of drugs and alcohol can eventually cause physical dependence or psychological substance dependence. Once an individual’s body is dependent on a substance, the decrease of intake or abrupt discontinuation of that substance can cause withdrawal symptoms.
The type of withdrawal symptoms differs depending on the type of drug or alcohol being misused, how long the person has been dependent on the substance and their tolerance levels. Perspiration is most commonly caused by alcohol or opioid withdrawal; however, it can be caused by other types of substance dependence withdrawal.
What Is Perspiration?
Perspiration is the production of sweat, a bodily fluid that is released by sweat glands located all over the human body. Perspiration usually occurs as a means of thermoregulation, as sweat cools the body; a result of evaporative cooling.
Usually, people perspire as a result of hot weather or exercise. However, symptoms involving perspiration, such as excessive perspiration or night sweats, are often an indicator of abnormal body temperatures, such as the ones caused by alcohol or drug withdrawal.
Types of Perspiration
There are two types of perspiration: eccrine sweat and apocrine sweat. Eccrine sweat is produced by the eccrine glands that are located all over the human body. Apocrine sweat is produced by apocrine glands that are only located in the armpits, areolas, ears and eyelids.
The fundamental difference between eccrine sweat and apocrine sweat is that eccrine sweat is a thin liquid predominantly made from water and sodium. Apocrine sweat is a thick fluid that typically creates body odour. Ear wax and milk in the areola of the breast are also considered apocrine sweat.
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The causes of perspiration in non-substance-dependent individuals include hot weather, exercise, anxiety, stress and menopause. These causes of sweating, excessive or not, are entirely normal in all humans. However, substance-dependent people may experience perspiration and excessive sweating as a symptom of withdrawal.
Sweating, as a symptom of withdrawal is very common in early alcohol withdrawal. This is because alcohol raises the heart rate, causing blood vessels to dilate, which triggers sweating. Withdrawal from opioid drugs such as heroin is also associated with extreme sweating, as opioid withdrawal increases the internal body temperature and triggers flu-like symptoms as a result of the fever.
Symptoms of Perspiration
The most common symptom of perspiration is the presence of sweat. This symptom is visible on the skin, and it is also likely to be visible on clothing.
Another symptom of perspiration is feeling clammy. Clamminess is the feeling of damp skin or skin that is sticky to touch.
For some patients undergoing alcohol or drug withdrawal, excessive perspiration can also cause body odour as sweat mixes with the bacteria on the skin. Body odour as a result of excessive perspiration can be managed by a combination of practising good hygiene and using antiperspirant products.
Night sweats due to perspiration may also occur. This is most common in patients experiencing early alcohol withdrawal, as most alcoholics consume alcohol during the evening hours and cease drinking to sleep. Six hours after drinking, alcohol-dependent individuals begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms, and this is more often than not during the night.
People usually notice excessive perspiration under their armpits, on their hands and feet and their face, although sweating as a result of withdrawal can occur anywhere on the body.
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