Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Am Fam Physician. 2004 Mar 15;69(6):1443-50.


The spectrum of alcohol withdrawal symptoms ranges from such minor symptoms as insomnia and tremulousness to severe complications such as withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens. Although the history and physical examination usually are sufficient to diagnose alcohol withdrawal syndrome, other conditions may present with similar symptoms. Most patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal can be treated safely and effectively as outpatients. Pharmacologic treatment involves the use of medications that are cross-tolerant with alcohol. Benzodiazepines, the agents of choice, may be administered on a fixed or symptom-triggered schedule. Carbamazepine is an appropriate alternative to a benzodiazepine in the outpatient treatment of patients with mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Medications such as haloperidol, beta blockers, clonidine, and phenytoin may be used as adjuncts to a benzodiazepine in the treatment of complications of withdrawal. Treatment of alcohol withdrawal should be followed by treatment for alcohol dependence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / diagnosis
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / physiopathology
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / therapy*
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans


  • Benzodiazepines