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Substance Abuse and Addiction - When to Call a Doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services if you or someone else:

  • Has the symptoms of alcohol poisoning. These can include vomiting, coughing up blood, gasping for breath, passing out, and seizures.
  • Has a history of heavy drinking and is having severe withdrawal symptoms but is not willing to get treatment.
  • Has delirium tremens (DTs), which can lead to death. Symptoms can include seizure, shaking, a fast heartbeat, and seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).
  • Is thinking or talking about suicide or harming others. For more information, see the warning signs of suicide.

Call a doctor right away if you or someone you care about:

  • Has withdrawal symptoms, such as confusion and trembling.
  • Agrees to be seen for possible treatment. You need to call right away, because people who agree to get help often don't follow through with making the appointment.
  • Has stopped drinking but starts drinking again (has a relapse).
  • Has severe stomach pain.

Call a doctor if you're concerned that you or someone you care about may have an alcohol problem. To learn what to look for, see Symptoms.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. Watchful waiting is not a good choice for alcohol abuse and dependence. If you have concerns about your drinking or the drinking of someone you care about, talk to your doctor. Early treatment makes recovery more likely.

Who to see

Health professionals who diagnose and treat alcohol problems include:

Other health professionals who can help with recovery include:

Find a health professional who has chemical dependency certification (CDC) or is a certified alcoholism counselor (CAC).

Support groups can also help you and your family:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or similar support groups are for people with alcohol abuse or dependence.
  • Al-Anon and Alateen (for teenagers) are for families and friends affected by someone's drinking.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: 6/, 014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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