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Alcohol Withdrawal & Treatment

Alcohol withdrawal & treatment may vary depending on the level of dependency or addiction to the alcohol. This article has information on symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal and offers options for alcohol addiction treatments.


For someone who has become dependent on alcohol, quitting can be very difficult. Alcohol dependency is an addiction, just like any other drug addiction. There are withdrawal symptoms, and often, outside help is needed to combat the alcohol withdrawal symptoms, as well as to help the person psychologically.

While most alcohol dependency can be treated with a combination of out patient pharmacology and counseling, in severe cases, it might be necessary to undergo treatment in an in-patient alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

A serious alcohol abuse problem that involves a physical need is called alcohol dependence. In such cases, the body actually needs the alcohol. When the alcohol is suddenly taken away, withdrawal symptoms become manifest, as they would with any other drug addiction that has been interrupted. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is manifest in several ways. The longer and heavier the alcohol abuse, the more severe the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will be. Here are some of the symptoms that can accompany a sudden cessation of alcohol use: 

  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased sweating 
  • Tremor 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Insomnia 
  • Seizures 
  • Difficulty with motor skills 
  • Anxiety 
  • Restlessness and agitation 
  • Auditory, visual or tactile hallucinations

These symptoms can come on as soon as several hours after the alcohol intake has stopped. However, it is also possible for the symptoms to take longer to become manifest. Sometimes it can take a few days for alcohol withdrawal syndrome to really begin.

Treatment of alcohol withdrawal

Treating alcohol dependency relies a great deal on treating the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This is because the unpleasantness of the symptoms, and the severity, can drive one back to alcohol in order to obtain relief. While alcohol abuse (which does not entail a physical dependence on alcohol) can be treated alone, or with a good support group, alcohol dependency is different. The body’s physical need makes it harder to overcome. Treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome usually involves some measure of help from prescription drugs. These are chemicals that can help suppress the symptoms of withdrawal as a person’s body becomes less dependent upon alcohol. This can be very helpful in successfully overcoming an addiction to alcohol. While most treatments can be done as out-patient treatment, in some severe cases it is necessary to have the alcohol dependent person stay in an in-patient facility for better monitoring and treatment. No matter the treatment, however, most people with an alcohol dependency also require a good support system and professional counseling as part of their treatment. The psychological impacts of alcohol abuse can be quite as difficult to overcome as the physical addiction.

It is important to notice that some measure of need will almost always be present (usually psychological) in someone who has had an alcohol dependency. Fighting the urge to become addicted again is a lifelong struggle, and a person often needs continued support and encouragement to stay away from people and places that may tempt him or her back into alcohol dependency.

Alcohol Withdrawal & Treatment Main source material:

  • Bayard, Max, et al, “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.” American Family Physician, March 15, 2004. [Online.]

Related Article: Alcohol History >>

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