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Alcohol Withdrawal

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Alcohol withdrawal is a group of symptoms that occur when you drink alcohol daily and suddenly stop drinking. It can begin within 5 hours of your last drink and gets worse over 2 to 3 days. Withdrawal may also happen if you suddenly reduce the amount of alcohol that you normally drink.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Psychiatric assessment:

Caregivers will ask if you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse. They will ask if you were given the care that you needed. Caregivers will ask you if you have been a victim of a crime or natural disaster, or if you have a serious injury or disease. They will ask you if you have seen other people being harmed, such as in combat. You will be asked if you drink alcohol or use drugs at present or in the past. Caregivers will ask you if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. How you answer these questions can help caregivers decide on treatment. To help during treatment, caregivers will ask you about such things as how you feel about it and your hobbies and goals. Caregivers will also ask you about the people in your life who support you.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

You may need extra oxygen

if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

Medicines:

  • Sedatives may be given to calm you and help manage your symptoms.

  • Anticonvulsant medicine may be given to control seizures.

  • Vitamin supplements may be recommended because high alcohol intake can keep your body from absorbing enough vitamins from food. Thiamine is a vitamin that can also help to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Monitoring:

A neurologic exam is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works during alcohol withdrawal. Healthcare providers will check how your pupils react to light. They may check your memory, balance, and hand grasp.

Tests:

Blood or urine tests may be needed to check the amount of alcohol in your body. The tests can also show if you have low levels of vitamins and electrolytes, or organ damage. The liver and pancreas are commonly damaged by alcohol.

RISKS:

You may act out violently when you go through alcohol withdrawal. You may harm yourself and others. You can have high fevers, abnormal heartbeats, and hallucinations. Severe alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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