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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1994 Feb;18(1):196-201.

Severity and treatment of alcohol withdrawal in elderly versus younger patients.

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Alcohol Research Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor.


We conducted a retrospective chart review of older (n = 48; mean age = 69) and younger (n = 36; mean age = 30) patients who were admitted to residential/inpatient treatment for alcohol withdrawal and dependence. Although the two age groups did not differ in terms of recent drinking history, the elderly group had significantly more withdrawal symptoms for a longer duration than the younger group. The elderly group also had more symptoms of cognitive impairment, daytime sleepiness, weakness, and high blood pressure. Finally, no significant differences were found between age groups in either the dosage or number of days of detoxification medication, although a trend was found for more days of medication in the elderly. We conclude that alcohol withdrawal may be more severe in elderly than in younger persons. Accordingly, treatment may take longer and should target the specific profile of symptoms that characterize alcohol withdrawal in the elderly.

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