by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Alcohol withdrawal is a reaction that happens after alcohol is stopped. It can be deadly.
Alcohol misuse changes how the body works. The body needs a chance to get back to normal when alcohol is stopped. The body cannot work as well during this time. This leads to withdrawal.
Sudden stopping of alcohol raises the risk of this problem. This risk is increased in older adults.
Withdrawal will start after use is stopped. This can be in a few hours to a few days. The types of problems a person has depends on the length of misuse. Common problems are:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your alcohol use. A physical exam may be done.
Blood and urine tests will be done.
The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. The treatment used will depend on a person's symptoms. This can be done with:
There are no known guidelines to prevent withdrawal when alcohol misuse has started.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alcohol-withdrawal-syndrome. Accessed March 25, 2021.
Gortney JS, Raub JN, et al. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome in medical patients. Cleve Clin J Med. 2016 Jan;83(1):67-79.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 3/26/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.