Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Am Fam Physician. 1996 Aug;54(2):657-64, 669.


Hundreds of thousands of significant alcohol withdrawal episodes are encountered by primary care physicians every year. If the situation is appreciated at an early stage, most patients can be managed successfully on an outpatient basis with benzodiazepines. Patients with seizures, concurrent medical illnesses and severe withdrawal signs should be hospitalized. Fewer than 5 percent of patients withdrawing from alcohol progress to delirium tremens. Mortality from delirium tremens has been reduced to less than 5 percent of patients, through early diagnosis, supportive nursing care, treatment of coexisting medical conditions and aggressive pharmacologic therapy. Patients with a history of multiple detoxification episodes are more likely to experience seizures and severe withdrawal symptoms.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / diagnosis
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / drug therapy*
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium / physiopathology
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome* / physiopathology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome* / therapy


  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol