Alcohol Withdrawal. A Guide for Patients and Families

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1 Alcohol Withdrawal A Guide for Patients and Families

2 Table of Contents Page 1...Do I need to stop drinking? Page 2...How do I know if I am addicted? Page 3...What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms? Page 4...Who is at risk for alcohol withdrawal? Page 5...How is alcohol withdrawal treated? Page 6...After Alcohol Withdrawal Page 7...Support Groups and Community Resources

3 Do I need to stop drinking? You may need to stop drinking alcohol if it is getting in the way of your family, school, or work. Using alcohol for a long time can cause health problems, like liver disease and high blood pressure. It can also cause you to have: Slow reactions Poor judgment Problems with sleep Trouble with your memory and concentration Problems with your sex life You can become physically addicted to alcohol. Page 1

4 Did you know? Alcohol addiction is a disease that can happen to anyone. In the United States, 17.6 million people or about l in every 12 adults is addicted to alcohol. How do I know if I am addicted? You may be addicted to alcohol if you: Have cravings or a strong need to drink Are not able to stop drinking once you have started Need larger amounts of alcohol to feel high Have alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you do not have a drink Page 2

5 What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms? Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms are: Not being able to sleep Having an upset stomach or throwing up Headache Being very nervous Sweating Shaking all over and not being able to stop Your heart beating faster than usual High blood pressure In severe cases, you may have: Confusion Hallucinations or seeing or hearing things that are not there Seizures or uncontrolled movements An irregular heart beat Withdrawal symptoms can start anytime after you stop or suddenly cut down on how much you are drinking. Page 3

6 Who is at risk for alcohol withdrawal? Anyone who drinks alcohol is at risk. Because of this, we ask every patient who comes to the hospital about their alcohol use. Some patients may feel embarrassed about drinking alcohol, but there is no need to be embarrassed. You are not alone. We see many people who are dealing with this. Please be honest with your nurse. This will help make sure that you receive the best care possible. We are here to help! Page 4

7 When You Stop Drinking There may come a time when you decide to stop drinking or are forced to stop suddenly, like when you are in the hospital. When this time comes, speak with your doctor or nurse. Remember, stopping alcohol suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms in some people. If not treated properly, alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous. Do not try to go it alone. Speak with your doctor or nurse! How is alcohol withdrawal treated? Alcohol withdrawal is treated with vitamins and certain medicines that keep you healthy while the alcohol leaves your body. Patients need to be kept safe during this time. Because of the special care that is needed, some patients stay in a hospital while being treated for alcohol withdrawal. Page 5

8 After Alcohol Withdrawal Support groups and other community resources can help you recover after alcohol withdrawal. A few of these are listed on the next page. For more information, call the: National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at This services offers information about treatment, booklets about alcohol, and help with finding support in the area where you live. Page 6

9 Support Groups and Community Resources When you go home, get support to help you recover. Alcoholics Anonymous of Boston Alanon and Alateen if your life is affected by someone else s drinking Alcoholism.about.com Provides information about alcoholism and access to treatment centers Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education You are not alone! Page 7

10 Notes Page 8

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12 BRIGHAM AND WOMEN S HOSPITAL 75 Francis Street Boston, MA For more information about alcohol withdrawal, please visit the Kessler Library on the First Floor. BWH 10/11 SR#

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