Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is real and can lead to death. AWS is the result of alcoholism, or rather, the cessation of drinking alcohol by a chronic alcohol consumer. One can be an alcoholic for only a few weeks or for years and suffer this syndrome when they decide or are forced to suddenly stop consuming alcohol.
This website hopes to bring attention to this issue, and especially attention to the problem of too many deaths occurring due to incarceration by law enforcement forcing the sudden cessation of alcohol and then not providing the proper medical attention this syndrome required to sustain life. There are many cases in which alcoholics are suddenly incarcerated for such things as unpaid traffic tickets, minor violations, and DUI (as some examples) and 4 days or so later they are dead of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome that went untreated. They died an agonizing painful death, crying and pleading for help and alone.
In the United States detention facility officers are trained on the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as well as other addiction withdrawal symptoms. Education is already being addressed, what is not being addressed is the lack of action, the deliberate indifference by these officers when they witness these symptoms occurring in detainees, ignore it, and thus resulting in the death of the detainee.
Let me point out, death as the result of Alcohol Withdrawal is not pleasant. Anxiety, Agitation, Increased Heart Rate, Hallucinations, Erratic Behaviour, Seizures are just some of the symptoms one goes through when experiencing the effects of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. All symptoms are noticeable to any observing person, trained or untrained. The kicker is that there is medication that can be delivered that can ease these symptoms and prevent their death, basically, assisting the body in the transition of no longer receiving alcohol. However in too many instances alcoholics are not receiving this life saving medical attention when being detained at local, state, and federal detention facilities.
I encourage everyone to read the 6 page article “Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal” to gain more understanding and information on AWS. Published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
I also want to bring attention that being denied medical care while incarcerated is in violation of one’s Eighth Amendment Rights. (Thurgood Marshall, majority opinion, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 1976) Much information on this ruling can be found by simply googling “Estelle vs Gamble”. While the case does not pertain directly to an inmate suffering Alcohol Withdrawal, it does pertain to the deliberate indifference of not providing medical attention to an inmate in need. This violation of ones eighth amendment right is often cited in wrongful death cases involving the death of a detainee due to Acute Alcohol Withdrawal
While family members of those who have suffered and died of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome while being detained have the option of filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, the process can be long and tedious. The result can be a monetary award, however money does not bring our loved one back, nor does it provide any motivation to other officials to prevent such occurrences in the future at facilities. Monetary Awards are generally paid by the Insurance Company of the facility, not the city, county or personnel. Sometimes change occurs after such a case is won, however not often enough to save lives.
It is my opinion that a new law needs to be enacted that provides for the incarceration of those responsible for denying medical treatment in cases of deaths as well as a monetary award to the family of the deceased.
By establishing this Website I hope to increase awareness and education of this issue and eventually bring about new legislation resulting in new laws that prevent detainee deaths due to Alcohol (or other addiction) Withdrawal Syndrome. Ultimately I would like to establish a Foundation specifically for this issue that can be utilized as a resource for facilities to improve their response to AWS sufferers as well as a resource for families to help insure their loved ones are obtaining the care they need upon incarceration, as well as support for those families who have already lost a loved one to AWS.