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Alcohol Withdrawal


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.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

The signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal normally start 4 to 24 hours after you stop drinking. The symptoms may be mild at first, and get worse as your body goes through the detoxification process. Detoxification means your body is working to remove the alcohol. Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are often called delirium tremens (DTs). DTs usually occur 3 to 4 days after you stop drinking. You may have any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Fever, sweating, shakiness, and a fast heartbeat
  • Confusion and trouble remembering
  • Nervousness, anxiety, and agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hallucinations (you see, hear, feel, or taste things that are not there)
  • Poor sleep, restlessness, or nightmares
  • Seizures 24 hours to 1 week after your last drink
  • DTs include fever, severe restlessness, agitation, tremors, constant hallucinations, increased heartbeat, and breathing faster than usual

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel like you want to harm yourself or others.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • Your breathing or heartbeat is faster than usual.
  • You pass out or think you had a seizure.
  • You are confused, hallucinating, or extremely agitated.
  • You cannot stop vomiting, or you vomit blood.
  • You are shaking and it does not get better after you take your medicine.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You keep drinking to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • You need help to stop drinking alcohol.
  • You have trouble with work, relationships, or school because you drink too much alcohol.
  • You get into fights because of alcohol.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for alcohol withdrawal

includes managing your symptoms and helping to prevent severe symptoms from developing. Medicines may be given to calm you and help manage your symptoms. Vitamin supplements, such as thiamine, may be recommended because high alcohol intake can keep your body from absorbing enough vitamins from food. You may need to be treated in the hospital if you have severe withdrawal symptoms.

Have someone stay with you during withdrawal:

This person should help you take your medicine and keep you in a calm, quiet environment. He should also watch your symptoms and know what to do if your symptoms get worse.

For support and more information:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    Web Address:

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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 Withdrawal (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

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Symptoms and treatments