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Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(1):5-12.

Introduction to alcohol withdrawal.

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Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, USA.


Heavy drinkers who suddenly decrease their alcohol consumption or abstain completely may experience alcohol withdrawal (AW). Signs and symptoms of AW can include, among others, mild to moderate tremors, irritability, anxiety, or agitation. The most severe manifestations of withdrawal include delirium tremens, hallucinations, and seizures. These manifestations result from alcohol-induced imbalances in the brain chemistry that cause excessive neuronal activity if the alcohol is withheld. Management of AW includes thorough assessment of the severity of the patient's symptoms and of any complicating conditions as well as treatment of the withdrawal symptoms with pharmacological and nonpharmacological approaches. Treatment can occur in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Recognition and treatment of withdrawal can represent a first step in the patient's recovery process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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