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Institut national d'excellence en sante et en services sociaux. Poisson, Caroline (2021) Alcohol withdrawal and relapse prevention. Quebec: INESSS.

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Withdrawal after prolonged, heavy alcohol use can lead to a number of symptoms that cause clinically significant suffering or impaired social or occupational functioning. Without adequate pharmacotherapy, these symptoms of varying severity can progress to major complications, such as seizures or delirium tremens, and can sometimes lead to death. Although most addiction facilities utilize a hierarchical model of withdrawal severity based on the assessment of the individual’s risks using standardized clinical tools, the nature of these tools is heterogenous across the different facilities, and certain aspects of the practices vary from one region of Québec to another. Furthermore, many people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) could benefit from relapse prevention therapy immediately after withdrawal in that it could help them achieve and maintain their goals concerning their AUD.

  • Alcohol use disorder1 (AUD) is a chronic, recurring disease that requires ongoing, personalized interdisciplinary management.
  • Even if the individual does not have AUD, a sudden reduction in or cessation of prolonged, heavy drinking can lead to a withdrawal syndrome that, if left untreated, can cause serious complications.
  • The management of AUD involves both treatment for withdrawal and treatment for preventing relapses, both of which should, when applicable, be offered at the same time to ensure the continuity of care.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Guideline, Report
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Drug therapy, Treatment method, Psychosocial treatment method, Rehabilitation/Recovery
August 2021
12 p.
Corporate Creators
Institut national d'excellence en sante et en services sociaux
Place of Publication
This optimal use guide is intended for health professionals. It is provided for information purposes only and should not replace the judgment of the clinician who performs activities reserved under a statute or regulation. The recommendations concern individuals 18 years of age and older, with the exception of pregnant or breastfeeding women. They were developed using a systematic process and are supported by the scientific literature and by the knowledge and experience of Québec clinicians and experts. For further details, go to the section Trouble lié à l’usage d’alcool at
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