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Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal


  • Alcohol dependence , also known as alcoholism, is a type of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol is found in beer, wine, liquor, such as vodka and whiskey, and other adult drinks. With alcohol dependence, you drink alcohol too much and too often for a long period of time. You have a continuous craving for alcohol, making it hard to do your usual day-to-day activities. You will be diagnosed with alcohol dependence if you have at least three alcohol dependence symptoms within a year. These include needing more alcohol to get the same effects, and having symptoms of withdrawal if you stop drinking. You may also want to, but be unable to control your drinking. You may also drink even when you know that you have alcohol-related health problems.
  • Alcohol withdrawal occurs when you stop drinking, or you drink less while having alcohol dependence. Symptoms begin as your body tries to get used to this change. You will be diagnosed with alcohol withdrawal if you have at least two symptoms after you limit or stop drinking. Common symptoms include shaking, throwing up, and sweating. These symptoms may make you anxious and unable to work or be around others. Symptoms occur within several hours to a few days after stopping alcohol, and are not caused by other health problems.
  • Treatment for alcohol dependence and withdrawal includes medicines, detoxification, and therapy. Diagnosing and treating alcohol dependence and withdrawal as soon as possible may relieve or prevent symptoms. With treatment and care, your alcohol dependence and withdrawal may be controlled, and your quality of life improved.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

Ask your caregiver when to return for a follow-up visit.

Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.

Activity and rest:

You may need to rest in bed and have plenty of sleep. You may also have to stay in an evenly lit and quiet room. Loud noises, bright lights, or other disturbing things should be avoided while you are resting.


  • Avoid drinking alcohol: Set a goal for yourself to completely stop drinking. This will stop you from being dependent on it. This will also prevent you from developing alcohol withdrawal and other more serious health problems. Ask your caregiver if you should more of other liquids, such as water. Avoid caffeine, which may be found in coffee, tea, and sports drinks.
  • Be patient and keep your hopes up for improvement. Be patient and not too hard on yourself. Always be the first one to encourage yourself and find ways to boost your self-esteem. Work together with your family and friends and give each other support. This will help during hard times.
  • Learn about new treatments that may help. New treatments and therapies to help those with alcohol dependence and withdrawal are being developed. Certain treatments may make a big difference to your quality of life. Talk to your caregiver before trying any new therapy or medicine.
  • Learn more about alcohol dependence and withdrawal. The more you know about alcohol dependence and withdrawal, the better you will be able to help yourself. Ask your caregiver for good sources of information. Work with your caregiver and other people recovering from alcohol dependence and withdrawal to help yourself.
  • Try to avoid stress: Stress may make your alcohol dependence and withdrawal worse and cause other problems later. Learn ways to control stress and your unwanted behavior. Ask your caregivers about ways to calm your body and mind. Talk to someone about things that upset you.
If you drink alcohol again, do not drive or operate machines. Ask someone who is sober to help you go home or bring you to the nearest hospital.


Ask your caregiver for information about the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: With a therapist, you will learn how to control your actions and improve your behavior. This is done by teaching you how to change your behavior by looking at the results of your actions. You may also need to know how to cope with situations which make you depend on alcohol use.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: Motivational enhancement therapy is used to encourage you to stop using alcohol. A therapist or counselor motivates and helps you set goals so you may change your destructive behaviors. By doing these changes, you may stop depending on alcohol and have a better lifestyle.


  • You cannot make it to your next meeting with your caregiver.
  • You feel you cannot cope at home, work, or in school.
  • You have new symptoms since the last time you visited your caregiver.
  • Your symptoms are getting worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your alcohol dependence or withdrawal, medicine, or care.


  • You just had a convulsion.
  • You have trouble breathing, chest pains, or a fast heartbeat.
  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

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