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Getting Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Most Cases Rarely Require Hospitalization

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Updated June 20, 2014

Alcohol Withdrwal
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Approximately 95 percent of people who quit drinking alcohol experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms and can usually be treated by healthcare providers on an out-patient basis, but five percent experience severe withdrawal symptoms and must be treated in a hospital or a facility that specializes in detoxification.

If you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. You can contact your family physician or healthcare provider, the local emergency room or urgent care center so that they can do an assessment of the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.

Take the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Quiz.

According to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, the goals for healthcare providers are to treat the immediate withdrawal symptoms, prevent complications, and begin long-term preventative therapy.

Observation The person being treated for withdrawal usually will have to stay at the hospital for observation at least initially, so that heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and blood pressure can be monitored, as well as fluids and electrolytes (chemicals in the body such as sodium and potassium).

Sedation. The severely alcohol dependent patient's symptoms can progress rapidly and may quickly become life-threatening. Drugs that depress the central nervous system (such as sedatives) may be required to reduce symptoms, often in moderately large doses.

Tranquilizers. Treatment may require maintenance of a moderately sedated state for a week or more until withdrawal is complete. A class of medications known as the Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers such as Valium) are often useful in reducing a range of symptoms.

Drying Out. A "drying out" period may be appropriate. No alcohol is allowed during this time. The healthcare provider will watch closely for signs of delirium tremens.

Hallucinations Treated. Hallucinations that occur without other symptoms or complications are uncommon. They are treated with hospitalization and antipsychotic medications as needed.

Medical Conditions Tested. Testing and treatment for other medical problems associated with use of alcohol is necessary. This may include disorders such as alcoholic liver disease, blood clotting disorders, alcoholic neuropathy, heart disorders (such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy), chronic brain syndromes (such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome), and malnutrition.

Rehab. Rehabilitation for alcoholism is often recommended. This may include social support groups, medications, and behavior therapy.

More Information

Source: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.

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