Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

What is Acute Alcohol Withrawal?

Acute alcohol withdrawal is a group of symptoms that can occur when someone abruptly stops drinking alcohol after a period of excessive or prolonged drinking. The reaction is the body's response to the absence of alcohol in the bloodstream. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can occur within several hours to several days after the last drink and range from mild to severe.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Anxiety
  • Shaking/tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens (DT's) (most severe symptoms)

Risk Factors for Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

Some individuals are at greater risk for experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Those with a prior history of alcohol withdrawal, chronic alcohol abuse, and comorbid mental/medical health conditions are at risk for experiencing more severe symptoms during withdrawal. Other risk factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Alcohol tolerance
  • Duration of alcohol consumption
  • Frequency of alcohol use
  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Concurrent drug use

Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

A doctor or healthcare provider can diagnose acute alcohol withdrawal by assessing symptoms and patient history. In some cases, a urine or blood test may also be used. Treatment may involve the use of medications to relieve symptoms and help reduce the risk of complications. In some cases, supportive care such as fluids and vitamin therapy may also be necessary. It is important that those experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal receive immediate medical care to prevent potentially devastating complications.