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Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal in the Context of ICD-10 Coding
Alcohol and Health

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal in the Context of ICD-10 Coding

June 17, 2024
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 17, 2024
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Alcohol withdrawal is a significant medical condition that arises when individuals who have been consuming alcohol heavily for an extended period suddenly reduce or stop their intake. Recognizing and classifying alcohol withdrawal symptoms accurately is crucial for effective treatment and management. One of the primary methods used by healthcare professionals to classify these symptoms is the ICD-10 coding system.

What is the ICD-10 Coding System?

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal in the Context of ICD-10 Coding

The International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10), is a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO). The ICD-10 is used globally to classify diseases and a wide variety of signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or disease. It provides a standardized coding system that allows for consistent and reliable documentation and analysis of health conditions.

Classification of Alcohol Withdrawal in ICD-10

In the ICD-10, alcohol withdrawal is categorized under the broader classification of mental and behavioral disorders due to psychoactive substance use. The specific codes related to alcohol withdrawal include:

  • F10.23: Alcohol dependence with withdrawal state.
  • F10.24: Alcohol dependence with withdrawal state delirium.
  • F10.230: Alcohol dependence with withdrawal, uncomplicated.
  • F10.231: Alcohol dependence with withdrawal, delirium.
  • F10.232: Alcohol dependence with withdrawal, with perceptual disturbance.

These codes help healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms, ensuring that they receive the appropriate level of care.

Symptoms and Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and understanding these stages is crucial for effective treatment.

Stage 1: Initial Symptoms (6-12 hours after the last drink)

In the first stage, symptoms usually begin within 6-12 hours after the last drink. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

These initial symptoms are the body's response to the sudden absence of alcohol, which it has become dependent on.

Stage 2: Intensified Symptoms (24-72 hours)

Symptoms intensify during this stage, which typically occurs within 24-72 hours. This stage can include:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Fever
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations (auditory, visual, and tactile)

One severe manifestation during this stage is Delirium Tremens (DTs), which is characterized by severe agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. DTs usually arise 48-72 hours after the last drink and can be life-threatening, requiring immediate medical attention.

Stage 3: Peak Symptoms (3-5 days)

The peak of withdrawal symptoms generally occurs around 3-5 days after the last drink. These symptoms can include:

  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • High fever
  • Agitation

During this stage, continuous monitoring and medical intervention are crucial to prevent complications.

Stage 4: Subacute Withdrawal (1-2 weeks)

While the most severe symptoms tend to subside after the first week, individuals may still experience:

  • Mood swings
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Sleep disturbances

This period is critical for ongoing support to prevent relapse and ensure long-term recovery.

Stage 5: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

PAWS can last for several months and includes symptoms such as:

  • Prolonged anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Emotional instability

Effective coping mechanisms and a robust support system are essential during this stage to manage symptoms and maintain sobriety.

Importance of Accurate Classification and Diagnosis

Accurate classification of alcohol withdrawal symptoms using the ICD-10 codes is vital for several reasons:

  • Treatment Planning: Proper classification helps healthcare providers develop a tailored treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of the individual.
  • Resource Allocation: It ensures that the necessary resources, such as medical supervision and medications, are allocated appropriately.
  • Research and Analysis: Standardized coding allows for consistent data collection and analysis, contributing to a better understanding of alcohol withdrawal and its management.
  • Insurance and Billing: Accurate coding is necessary for insurance claims and billing, ensuring that individuals receive the coverage they need for their treatment.


Understanding how alcohol withdrawal is classified in the ICD-10 coding system is crucial for healthcare professionals and individuals alike. Accurate diagnosis and classification lead to better treatment outcomes, effective resource allocation, and a comprehensive understanding of this condition. If you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol withdrawal, it is essential to seek medical help immediately.

For more information on the stages of alcohol withdrawal and what to expect, refer to our detailed article on the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. Additionally, you can explore how long alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically last in our article How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Last?.

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