Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: What to Know Before Detox

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: What to Know Before Detox

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome:
What to Know Before Detox

Withdrawal by itself is scary, but some severe cases develop into Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). Additionally, his condition can be life-threatening if not monitored and treated properly by medical professionals. Below is everything you need to know before entering detox for alcohol dependency.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)?

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome or AWS is a set of symptoms that occur when a person who engages in regular alcohol consumption abstains from drinking. This disorder only occurs in people who have developed a physical dependency on alcohol and need to maintain a certain threshold in order to function. Essentially, the central nervous system adapts to alcohol intake, and when alcohol consumption is suddenly reduced or stopped, it can trigger Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.


Symptoms of AWS will appear anywhere from 6 hours to a few days after the last consumption of alcohol. These symptoms can range drastically with some of the more common characteristics as follows:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure

In more extreme cases of alcohol dependency or as withdrawal progresses, symptoms may become worse. In most cases, symptoms only last about 2 or 3 days, but some will experience symptoms that persist for weeks. Additionally, the most dangerous symptom of AWS to be watchful of is known as delirium tremens (DT). Signs and symptoms of DT include:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Extreme agitation
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Tactile hallucinations (feelings of itching, burning, or numbness)
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast respirations

Severe and untreated DT can result in cardiovascular collapse and/or damage to the vascular system. If you or a loved one experience any of the above symptoms in alcohol withdrawal, it is a sign of a medical emergency. Contact medical professionals immediately.

Who is at Risk of AWS?

Anyone with a physical dependency on alcohol is at risk of developing Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. The more dependent a person is on alcohol to function in their daily life, the more likely they are to develop this condition. It affects a majority of alcoholics in withdrawal with most experiencing mild symptoms. However, it’s important to stay vigilant and monitor symptoms to ensure there are no signs of symptoms progressing to a state of emergency. 

How is it Diagnosed?

A doctor diagnoses Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome by asking about a person’s medical history, symptoms, and performing a physical exam. A toxicology screening may also be conducted to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. Most symptoms of AWS are subjective and difficult to measure but tremors and hallucinations are among the most notable indicators. A doctor may ask you a few questions as follows:

  • What is your name?
  • What day is this?
  • Do you know where you are?
  • Do you feel nauseous?
  • Does it feel like bugs are crawling under your skin?

AWS Treatment and Outlook

Most common cases of AWS can be treated at home under the supervision of a family member or close friend. However, if a person’s home environment is not conducive to staying sober, they may seek alternatives in detox or by discussing options with a doctor. 

In severe cases, hospitalization or treatment facilities are necessary to monitor for medical emergencies. In these cases, patients may need fluids intravenously to prevent dehydration and may be prescribed medications to reduce symptoms. 

Most individuals that are diagnosed with AWS make a full recovery and continue on in their sobriety with the guidance of therapy and counseling.

Detox With Briarwood

Briarwood Detox Center offers detox treatment for alcohol, opioid, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and much more. Our experienced clinical staff provides round-the-clock monitoring throughout the detox process and our therapy team provides support to help manage the emotional response to treatment. Additionally, we have detox facilities located in Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs with state-of-the-art amenities.

Briarwood is dedicated to facilitating a healthy and safe environment that empowers people to make significant and lasting changes in their lives. We look forward to supporting you or your loved one on the journey to recovery. Call (512) 277 – 3103 today for more information on our programs and admission process.

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