Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a set of symptoms
that people have when they suddenly stop drinking after using alcohol for a long
time. Some people have mild shakiness and sweats. Some people hallucinate (hear
and see things that don't exist). The worst form of withdrawal is called "DTs"
(delirium tremens). DTs can be very serious if not treated by a doctor.
Withdrawal symptoms rarely occur in people who
only drink once in a while. Symptoms usually occur in people who have been
drinking heavily for weeks or months and then suddenly stop drinking. People who
have gone through withdrawal before are more likely to have withdrawal symptoms
each time they quit drinking.
Do people in withdrawal need to see
Yes. Your doctor needs to know you're going
through withdrawal so he or she can make sure it doesn't lead to more serious
health problems. If you go through withdrawal a number of times without getting
the right treatment, your symptoms may get worse each time. So even if your
withdrawal symptoms don't seem that bad, it's important to see your doctor. This
is especially true for people who have had a bad withdrawal before and people
who have other health problems, such as infections, heart disease, lung disease
or a history of seizures.
People who quit using other drugs (such as
tobacco, injected drugs or cocaine) at the same time they stop drinking alcohol
might have severe withdrawal problems. They should see a doctor before they
What can a doctor do to help people
A doctor can keep track of withdrawal symptoms
so that more serious health problems don't develop. He or she can also give
Medicines can control the shakiness, anxiety and
confusion that come with alcohol withdrawal. Only a doctor can prescribe these
medicines. If you take the medicines at an early stage of the withdrawal, they
may keep your symptoms from getting worse. Most people in withdrawal don't need
to be hospitalized.
What can family and friends do to
help people going through withdrawal?
It's important for people going through
withdrawal to have a quiet, safe place to stay until the withdrawal is over. The
urge to drink again during withdrawal can be very strong. Some people may put
themselves into dangerous situations. After withdrawal symptoms go away, it's
important for the person to join a treatment or sobriety program, such as
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Support from family and friends can help a person
find success in one of these programs.