The alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the name given to the symptoms that can occur when an excessive drinker abruptly stops drinking or drastically reduces their alcohol intake.
AWS can cause a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. These may range from mild anxiety, fatigue, nausea, and even severe hallucinations. AWS can cause seizures and hallucinations, as well as other severe symptoms. AWS can even be life-threatening.
What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome
AWS symptoms can appear as soon as 6 hours after you have finished drinking. They usually include at most two of these:
- An increased heart rate
- It is important to sweat
- There is confusion
- High blood pressure
Some symptoms can worsen in a matter of days or weeks. These symptoms may be more apparent if you have less alcohol in your system.
The most severe form of withdrawal syndrome is known as delirium tremens. These are the symptoms.
- Extreme confusion
- Extreme agitation
- A fever
- Tactile hallucinations include feeling itchy, burning or numb, but this isn’t happening.
- Auditory hallucinations or hearing sounds that don’t exist, also known as auditory hallucinations.
- Visual hallucinations or seeing images that aren’t there
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Rapid respirations
AWS symptoms that are severe can be a medical emergency. Call 911 or visit the emergency room. High fever, heart problems, and hallucinations are all reasons for immediate attention.
What causes the alcohol withdrawal syndrome?
Drinking excessively can cause nervous system irritation and excitability. Your body will become dependent on alcohol if you continue to drink. Your central nervous system becomes unable to adapt to the absence of alcohol. AWS can occur if you stop drinking suddenly or drastically reduce your alcohol intake.
Who is at greatest risk of alcohol withdrawal syndrome
AWS is a serious concern for those addicted to alcohol or who regularly consume large amounts of alcohol. They are also at risk for AWS if they cannot reduce their drinking.
AWS is more common among adults than in children or teenagers who drink too much. AWS is also possible if you have ever experienced withdrawal symptoms or had to undergo medical detox due to a drinking problem.
According to the Prevention Trusted Source and Centers for Disease Control, heavy drinking is defined as having more than eight drinks per day for women and more than 15 for men. These are equivalent to one drink
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, liquor, such as gin, vodka, vodka, or whiskey
- 5 ounces wine
- 8 ounces malt liquor
- 12 ounces beer
Binge drinking, the most common type of heavy drinking, is the most prevalent. It’s defined for women as drinking four to five drinks in a single sitting. It’s five drinks or more in one sitting for men.
What is the diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal syndrome?
Your doctor will examine your medical history and ask you about your symptoms. He or she may also conduct a physical exam. Your doctor will be looking for the following signs:
- Hand tremors
- An irregular heartbeat
- A fever
A toxicology screen is a test that determines how much alcohol you have in your body.
A series of questions are used to measure AWS using the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol. Healthcare professionals can use this test to diagnose AWS. This test can also be used for determining the severity of your symptoms. These are the 10 symptoms that can be measured using the scale:
- Auditory disturbances
- Clouding of the sensorium or inability to think clearly
- nausea and vomiting
- Paroxysmal sweats or sudden, uncontrollable sweating
- tactile disturbances
- visual disturbances
The Clinical Assessment described above is subjective and may not be reliable. Trusted Source’s 2017 study found that the Objective Alcohol Withdrawal scale (OAWS), which can be tailored to each case and used as a framework, was more effective for treatment.
A medical professional might ask these questions:
- Who am I?
- What day is it?
- Do you feel like there is a band around the top of your head?
- Are you feeling sick to your stomach or numb?
- Do you feel bugs crawling under your skin?
What can you learn from a month of no alcohol?
There’s no better time than now to assess your alcohol use. The month-long Alcohol Reset Challenge will teach you how to navigate a month in sobriety.
What is the treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome?
The severity of your symptoms will determine the treatment you receive for AWS. While some people can be treated at home, others might need to be supervised in a hospital setting. This is to avoid potentially fatal complications like seizures.
First, treatment should keep you comfortable and manage your symptoms. Another important goal is alcohol counselling. Your doctor will help you quit drinking as soon as possible.
AWS symptoms that are mild can often be treated at home. To monitor your condition, a friend or relative must be present. They will monitor your condition and call 911 immediately if there is any concern.
You should attend counselling sessions and see your doctor for routine blood tests. Tests for alcohol-related medical conditions may be required.
Talk to your doctor if your home is not conducive to sobriety. Your doctor might be able to help you find shelter programs for those recovering from alcohol addiction.
You may be required to stay in hospital if your symptoms become more severe. Your doctor will need to monitor your condition and address any problems. To prevent dehydration, fluids may be administered intravenously or through your veins.
AWS symptoms are commonly treated with sedatives known as benzodiazepines. Chlordiazepoxide is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine. It is not available in the United States as a generic.
You might also be prescribed the following benzodiazepines:
- Lorazepam (Ativan).
- alprazolam (Xanax)
Because of the risk of dependence, benzodiazepines are subject to a Food and Drug Administration Boxed Warning Trusted Source. Talk to your doctor before you take any medication from this group. Also, make sure to follow all instructions.
Vitamin supplements can also be administered to replenish essential vitamins lost due to alcohol consumption. After withdrawal is completed, you may need additional medication or supplements to treat any nutritional deficiencies and complications that result from chronic alcohol use.
Outlook for alcohol withdrawal syndrome
A majority of people with AWS are fully recovered. The outlook for AWS patients is generally good if they are otherwise healthy and can quit drinking. But, you may experience sleep disturbances, irritability and fatigue for several months.
AWS can become fatal if it progresses to delirium-tremens. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience severe symptoms of AWS. You have a better chance of avoiding life-threatening complications if you get treatment as soon as possible.
Preventing alcohol withdrawal syndrome
Avoiding heavy drinking is the best way to avoid AWS. It is important to seek medical attention and counselling if you have an alcohol abuse disorder. Your goal is to reduce your alcohol dependence to live your normal life gradually.