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Drink aware

May 01 2020

Symptoms of Covid-19 may be confused with withdrawal symptoms in a dependent drug or alcohol user

Anyone showing symptoms that could be Covid-19 should assume they are infected and act accordingly. If there is an opportunity to get tested then it is worthwhile finding out if you have Covid-19. If you are feeling unwell let your worker know as soon as possible. 

  • If you have symptoms you should use NHS 111 online or by phone. If you call there may be a long wait, so if you or someone else needs immediate medical attention then call 999.
  • Don’t be stoic if you feel unwell. Give the first person you talk to an honest description of your symptoms and tell them about your underlying health problems and issues with addiction. You will be not be judged for it. 

Alcohol is still on sale, but getting alcohol may be a problem if you’re used to getting cash from the public or shoplifting. The more progressive hotels are providing a limited supply of alcohol to those people who are going to suffer serious and dangerous withdrawals.


Alcohol withdrawal might look like the symptoms for Covid-19. Mild physical symptoms can appear as little as 6 hours after your last drink. These include anxiety, the shakes, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and sweating. Within the 12 to 24- hour range hallucinations may start and after a few days you may suffer from seizures. The DTs (delirium tremens) usually start between 48 and 72 hours after your last drink. If you’ve suffered bad withdrawal symptoms in the past, you’re more likely to get them again. Apart from the physical dangers of detoxing from alcohol, there are mental health problems that arise when you stop using any intoxicant.

Stay in control

Try not to get yourself in a state where you’re out of control, because you may be asked to leave a hostel.

Be aware that isolation can be a massive trigger, leading to feelings of despondency and the temptation to use. Think about ways of dealing with this before they come up. Also see ideas for supporting your mental wellbeing on p17 (Keep calm & carry on).

Reduction plan

If you are on a reduction plan speak to your worker as it might be best to stop this for now, as visits to the service might be reduced. Your worker and/or prescriber might also be off sick or working from home. 

Staying healthy

Trying to get clean and sober when you’re street homeless or living in a hostel can be incredibly difficult and as many services are shut it may not be the right time for you to go sober. But it is not impossible, so if you are in a homeless hotel you might want to take advantage of the roof over your head to try. You can get help if you:

  • Ask a GP or alcohol service about what longer-term support is available.
  • Use AA meetings and Smart Recovery groups which now meet online. Alcoholics Anonymous:
    0800 9177650 or email