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If you drink alcohol regularly and then cut down on how much you drink or suddenly stop drinking, you may go through some physical and emotional problems. This is called withdrawal. It happens because the alcohol is clearing out of your system. Clearing the alcohol from your body is called detoxification, or detox.
Most people may be able to cut down or stop drinking with only mild withdrawal. But people who drink large amounts of alcohol should not try to detox at home unless they work closely with a doctor to manage it. A person can die of severe alcohol withdrawal.
Before you stop drinking, talk to your doctor. It's important to tell your doctor exactly how much you have been drinking. Your doctor can help you decide if you need to detox in a medical centre where you can be supervised.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may start a few hours after you stop drinking. Or they may not start until a few days after the last drink.
Mild symptoms include:
More severe symptoms include:
Symptoms may peak within a few days. Mild symptoms can last for a few weeks. If your symptoms are severe, you'll need to see a doctor.
You may get medicine to treat withdrawal symptoms, whether you detox at home or in a medical centre. Medicine that treats seizures can also help. You may start with a high dose and then take smaller amounts over several days. There's also medicine that can help you avoid alcohol while you recover.
After detox, the focus shifts to staying alcohol-free. You can learn skills that help you stay sober as you recover. You also may get medicine to help you stay sober. Most people get some type of therapy, such as group counselling. Treatment doesn't focus on alcohol use alone. It may address other parts of your life, like your relationships, work, medical problems, and home life.
Finding new ways to deal with life's challenges without drinking takes time and effort. Treatment, support, patience, and commitment will help you make the changes you need to live a full life without alcohol.
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Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine
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