The most commonly abused drug in North America, alcoholism affects millions of people everyday with more than one in thirteen Americans suffering from the disease. The consequences of alcoholism are quite serious both in terms of damaged personal relationships and physical health, as heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers including those of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx, and may also cause liver cirrhosis, immune system problems, brain damage and harm to the fetus during pregnancy.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Both a psychological and physical addiction, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include, but are not limited to:

  • sweating or rapid pulse
  • hand tremor (“the shakes”)
  • insomnia
  • nausea or vomiting
  • physical agitation, jumpiness
  • anxiety
  • transient visual, tactile or auditory hallucinations or illusions
  • grand mal seizures
  • loss of appetite
  • death


Treatment for alcoholism typically includes a period of detoxification, followed by a prescribed medication program of disulfiram or naltrexone to help control cravings and avoid a relapse once drinking has stopped. Individual and group counseling are a major part of alcohol treatment and usually involves enrollment in Alcoholics Anonymous on an outpatient basis.

Learn how to distinguish alcohol abuse symptoms from alcoholism.