Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal
Aug 2013

One of the most difficult elements that many alcoholics face is dealing with alcohol withdrawals. Generally speaking, it's difficult to explain the possibilities of withdrawal symptoms to an alcoholic because everyone reacts differently and experiences different symptoms. The following overview provides a little insight into what typically occurs in the withdrawal experience and what individuals who are trying to detox from alcohol addiction can expect over a period of time.

Around 95 percent of people who choose to quit drinking alcohol will experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms. They can usually be treated by healthcare providers on an outpatient basis but around five percent of these people will experience severe withdrawal symptoms and must be treated in a hospital or a facility that would be able to specialize in detoxification. Those who are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms are advised to seek medical attention immediately. The individual should contact their family physician or a healthcare provider, the urger care center, the local emergency room, or any other medical facility that would be able to do an assessment of the severity of their withdrawal symptoms.


The individual who is being treated for the withdrawal will need to stay at the hospital for observation at least initially so that they can have their vital signs recorded and monitored.


The severely alcohol dependent patient's symptoms can progress quickly and may become life threatening. Drugs that depress the central nervous system may be needed to help reduce the symptoms in moderately large doses.


Treatment may require maintenance of a moderately sedated state for around a week or more until the withdrawal is complete. A class of medications known as tranquilizers are often useful in reducing the range of symptoms during this period.

Drying Out

The drying out period may be necessary; no alcohol is allowed during this time. The doctor or healthcare provider will be watching closely for signs of delirium tremens.


Hallucinations that might occur without other complications or symptoms are generally not likely. They are treated with hospitalization and antipsychotic medication to ensure that the individual will be safe and unable to harm themselves based off of their hallucinations.

Medical Conditions

Treatment and testing of medical problems associated with the use of alcohol is necessary at this point. It may include disorders such as blood clotting disorders, liver disease, heart disorders, malnutrition, and many other elements.

After all of these elements have occurred, the individual is ready for the rehab programs that are available in their area. This might include medications, social support groups, behavior therapy, and numerous other options. There are a lot of programs that will not accept someone getting involved with a rehab program until they have already dealt with their withdrawal symptoms. However, there are also a lot of rehab programs which encourage for clients to handle their withdrawal issues in the program itself because they have specialized services to help. Generally it depends on what the program is able to offer to the individual.


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