Medical Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

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Mental health professionals who treat addiction refer to alcohol abuse as alcohol use disorder [1]. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be mild, moderate, or severe. Despite the severity, alcohol abuse can have harmful side effects. Even once you quit you can be affected by alcohol withdrawal.

The Side Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder

These side effects can include impairment in their relationships or inability to complete professional or academic tasks. Other potential side effects include the physical impact of alcohol abuse.

In fact, alcohol abuse can increase the risk of stroke, liver disease, and cancer [2]. Another potential physical consequence of alcohol abuse is developing a physical dependence on alcohol. This means that when someone stops drinking, there are changes in their brain and body that leads to withdrawal.

This can happen with multiple substances, but alcohol’s impact on the brain is unique. Alcohol is considered a depressant, which means that it slows the brain down [1]. This is why some people drink in order to relieve stress.

Alcohol Withdrawal – What is it?

When someone’s brain is used to being in this state, and the alcohol supply stops, it takes the brain and body a while to readjust. This causes withdrawal.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • AnxietyBoyfriend supporting his girlfriend through alcohol withdrawal
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Confusion [3]

These symptoms can be dangerous, especially if someone has had serious withdrawal symptoms before [2]. Often, people need a supportive environment in order to cope with withdrawal.

Some people may need medical support depending on how severe their withdrawal reaction is. Withdrawal symptoms often make it difficult for people to stop using because withdrawal is so unpleasant.

Someone may try to stop drinking, but once they experience withdrawal, they drink again. Researchers have been working on finding ways to use medication to support this process.

Hope for Recovery

A recent study showed that there is one medication, prazosin, that significantly helped people with withdrawal symptoms to reduce or eliminate their drinking [1].

This is encouraging because it can help people recover and maintain their recovery from alcohol abuse. Another benefit of prazosin is its support to someone’s brain during the beginning phases of recovery [1].

Researchers found that early on in alcohol abuse recovery, the brain has a significant stress response. This stress response can increase cravings for alcohol use. However, prazosin can help with this by reducing cravings for alcohol [1].

While it is certainly an accomplishment to get through withdrawal without relapsing, there is still a lot of work to be done. Just because someone isn’t experiencing withdrawal doesn’t mean they are cured of their addiction.

In fact, mental health treatment for alcohol abuse is highly recommended. This is because addiction is not just a physical ailment. There is often an emotional component to someone’s substance abuse issue. For example, if someone was using alcohol to manage their anxiety or depression, then they would likely benefit from treating these underlying issues.

Treating underlying mental health conditions and developing coping skills to deal with future stressors can help prevent relapse. Treatment can also provide someone with a supportive community that can provide encouragement and accountability during their recovery.

Recovering from addiction certainly isn’t an easy task, but it is possible for everyone.


[1] Yale University. (2020, November 19). Drug eases recovery for those with severe alcohol withdrawal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 7, 2021 from

[2] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020, November 20). Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

[3] WebMD. (n.d). What is alcohol withdrawal?

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on January 15, 2021
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 15, 2021
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.