Evaluation of the Brief Alcohol Withdrawal Scale Protocol at an Academic Medical Center

Brian K. Lindner, Vi T. Gilmore, Rachel M. Kruer, Anika A.H. Alvanzo, Edward S. Chen, Paula Murray, Timothy Niessen, Keisha Perrin, Darius A. Rastegar, Samantha Young, Andrew S. Jarrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: The standard of care for treatment of alcohol withdrawal is symptom-triggered dosing of benzodiazepines using a withdrawal scale. Abbreviated scales are desired for clinician efficiency. The objective of this study was to evaluate the use of the 5-item Brief Alcohol Withdrawal Scale (BAWS) protocol. METHODS: This single-center, retrospective, observational, cohort study assessed patients ordered the BAWS protocol between August 1, 2016 and July 31, 2017. Data were collected on benzodiazepine exposure, duration of treatment, withdrawal severity, agitation, over-sedation, and delirium while being treated for alcohol withdrawal. Comparisons were made to analyze predetermined patient subgroups. RESULTS: Seven hundred ninety-nine patients were initiated on the BAWS protocol. Patients received a median (IQR) of 0 (0-4) lorazepam equivalents (LEs) and were on the BAWS protocol for a median (IQR) of 44.9 (22.4-77.2) hours. Of the patients that received benzodiazepines while on the BAWS protocol, a median (IQR) of 4 (2-11) LEs were given. Seventeen (2.1%) patients had severe withdrawal. Days of agitation, over-sedation, and delirium were minimal, with the median (IQR) of 0 (0-0). Few patients received adjunctive medications for symptom management. Intensive care unit (ICU) patients had more severe withdrawal than non-ICU patients, but received the same cumulative benzodiazepine dose. CONCLUSIONS: Most patients on the BAWS protocol received little-to-no benzodiazepines; severe withdrawal, agitation, delirium, or over-sedation were uncommon. This is the first evaluation of the BAWS protocol on a diverse population of hospitalized patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-384
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of addiction medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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