Appraisal of the Glasgow assessment and management of alcohol guideline: a comprehensive alcohol management protocol for use in general hospitals

QJM. 2012 Jul;105(7):649-56. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcs020. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Background: Guidelines exist for the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) but few have been assessed as to their suitability for general hospitals. The Glasgow Assessment and Management guideline for alcohol has been specifically developed for use in this context.

Aim: To determine if this alcohol assessment guideline aids the management of AWS in general hospitals.

Design: The four components of the Glasgow Assessment and Management of Alcohol guideline were evaluated. This included the use of the Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST) to identify at risk patients, a risk stratification strategy to indicate fixed dose or symptom-triggered benzodiazepine treatment, the Glasgow Modified Alcohol Withdrawal Scale (GMAWS) for symptom-triggered treatment and a clear recommendation for vitamin prophylaxis of Wernicke's encephalopathy.

Methods: FAST scores were assessed along with the CAGE (cut down, annoyed, guilty and eye-opener) screening tool to ascertain if a single screening tool could identify hazardous and dependent drinking. The GMAWS and Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA-Ar) were compared between two medical units. A staff survey of the two AWS tools was also carried out.

Results: FAST was able to identify both probable hazardous and dependent drinking. The GMAWS was reliable and gauged both physical and cognitive aspects of AWS. Staff generally preferred the GMAWS-based treatment as opposed to CIWA-Ar management and welcomed the Guideline as a whole.

Conclusion: The Glasgow Guideline aids the management of patients with AWS in an acute hospital setting. It allows early identification of at risk patients and directs effective therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospitals, General / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Scotland
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / therapy*
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / chemically induced
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / prevention & control


  • Vitamins
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol