Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Itching?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may cause an array of issues that affect the skin including itching, redness, and dry skin. Many of these side effects will go away with medical treatment.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


People who drink alcohol in excess over long periods and attempt to quit suddenly are at high risk for alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS).

There are several mild to severe side effects associated with alcohol detox including psychological and physical effects. One such side effect is alcohol withdrawal itching.

How Alcohol Withdrawal Affects The Skin

Chronic alcohol consumption can cause several skin conditions including acne, inflammation, premature aging, dryness, and more.

When a person who drinks heavily suddenly stops drinking, some of these conditions may go away. Other skin symptoms such as dryness or clamminess may be exacerbated by alcohol withdrawal.

Factors That Contribute To Itchy Skin During Alcohol Withdrawal

Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is a relatively uncommon physical symptom of alcohol withdrawal.

The likeliness of developing skin issues from a lack of drinking alcohol is dependent on several other factors including underlying health conditions.

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (DTS) is one of the most serious side effects of alcohol withdrawal. DTs symptoms may include disorientation, visual or tactile hallucinations, seizures, and more.

The development of itchy skin may be related to DTs because of poor nutrition related to the prolonged abuse of alcohol, as well as tactile hallucinations — such as a crawling feeling on the skin.

Nerve Disorders

Nerve disorders, or alcoholic neuropathy, may arise after long periods of alcohol use. This is due to the way alcohol damages nerves after prolonged abuse.

Some of the sensations of neuropathy include a burning sensation on the skin, intense itching, tingling, or numbness.

Zinc Deficiency

People with alcohol use disorder may develop zinc deficiency due to malnourishment. A lack of zinc in the body may result in skin lesions (acrodermatitis) and skin itching and can be corrected by taking zinc supplements. Taking a multivitamin during alcohol withdrawal can help relieve symptoms.

Psychiatric Conditions

There are several mental health disorders that may either develop or be emphasized through alcohol abuse. These psychiatric conditions may include depression, anxiety, manic-depressive psychosis, and others.

Mental issues may contribute to skin conditions because of the likelihood of a person having a poor diet and vitamin deficiencies from their unhealthy drinking habits.

Other Effects Of Alcohol Withdrawal On The Skin

While quitting drinking is an important first step in the recovery process, some of the skin-related conditions may worsen during alcohol detoxification.

Dry Skin

Drinking alcohol dehydrates the skin. People experiencing alcohol withdrawal may continue experiencing chronic dryness in their skin for days or weeks after their last drink.

Clammy Skin

Due to the way alcohol affects the central nervous system, clammy skin is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Clammy skin typically starts within the first day of detox and will usually heal over time.

Treatment Programs For Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening if not monitored by medical professionals. That’s why it’s important to seek the help of an evidence-based rehab program for alcohol abuse.

Treatment options may include:

  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using benzodiazepines
  • individual and group counseling
  • alcohol detox programs
  • dual diagnosis treatment
  • support groups for alcohol dependence or drug abuse
  • inpatient care
  • outpatient treatment

After you stop drinking, medical care during the detox process is an important first step in addiction treatment for a substance use disorder involving alcohol.

Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one need assistance in treating alcohol or opiate addiction, call the helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center today. Our residential treatment program can put you on the path to sobriety.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH)
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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