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Withdrawal, Alcohol

Withdrawal, Alcohol is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Alcohol withdrawal is the most common withdrawal syndrome encountered in the emergency department
  • Neuroexcitation is the hallmark of alcohol withdrawal
  • Alcohol withdrawal may be life threatening.
  • More severe symptoms and signs are seen in patients with prior episodes of withdrawal, a process called kindling
  • Alcoholism is not uncommon among older adults.
  • Age-related increase in alcohol sensitivity
  • Alcohol-related problems may be misdiagnosed as normal consequences of aging.


  • Chronic alcohol use downregulates GABA (inhibitory) receptors, upregulates NMDA (excitatory) receptors.
  • Abstinence or reduction in use leads to increased adrenergic activity because of these receptor adaptations
  • 4 components to alcohol withdrawal:
    • Early withdrawal
    • Withdrawal seizures
    • Alcoholic hallucinosis
    • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • DTs occur in 5% of patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal
  • DTs have a 5–15% mortality rate

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* When formatting your citation, note that all book, journal, and database titles should be italicized* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Withdrawal, Alcohol ID - 307348 ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307348/all/Withdrawal__Alcohol PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -