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Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Alcohol Withdrawal


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.

Risk Factors

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:

  • Irritability
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Problems thinking or understanding
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Feeling weak
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lack of hunger
  • Sleeping problems
  • Seizures
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there

Anxiety is a symptom of withdrawal from alcohol.

Physical reaction anxietyhttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=74207420BN00073.jpgBN00073.jpgNULLjpgBN00073.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\BN00073.jpgNULL55NULL2008-12-032634037420_535597Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The doctor will ask about symptoms, health history, and any 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:

  • Care in a detoxification center where a person can be watched closely
  • Supportive care, such as vitamins and fluids
  • Lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and getting enough sleep
  • Medicines to ease cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Counseling or group therapy to learn ways to stay away from harmful habits


There are no known guidelines to prevent withdrawal once alcohol misuse has started.





  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alcohol-withdrawal-syndrome.
  • Gortney, J.S., Raub, J.N., et al. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome in medical patients. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2016; 83 (1): 67-79.


  • James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

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.