A rational approach to the treatment of alcohol withdrawal in the ED☆,☆☆

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Abstract

Approximately 7% of the US population abuses or is dependent on alcohol. Patients with alcohol disorders often seek medical attention in Emergency Departments (EDs) for complications directly related to alcohol use or due to other medical issues associated with alcohol use. Because of increasing lengths of stay in EDs, alcohol-dependent patients are at high risk of developing alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) during their ED visit. This article reviews the physiology of alcohol withdrawal as well as the symptoms of this potentially deadly illness for the practicing emergency physician (EP). We provide evidence-based guidelines for the appropriate ED treatment of moderate to severe AWS, including pharmacologic interventions, adjunctive therapies, and disposition of these patients.

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