Biochemical evidence of iron overload (transferrin saturation greater than 60% and/or serum ferritin concentration greater than 1000 micrograms/L) was observed in 16% of patients admitted to an alcohol withdrawal unit. No subjects in an age and sex matched control group showed such biochemical changes. Whilst changes in serum ferritin concentration closely correlated with aspartate aminotransferase activity and could be explained by alcohol induced liver damage, the increased transferrin saturation was not similarly explained. In nine patients withdrawal of alcohol resulted in a decrease in transferrin saturation and serum ferritin, the former due to a reduction in serum iron concentration. In patients with high alcohol intake biochemical measures of iron status may be misleading and a decrease in both transferrin saturation and serum ferritin concentration after withdrawal of alcohol may help to rule out the possible diagnosis of hereditary haemochromatosis.