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Delirium Tremens

Learn more about Delirium Tremens, a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. Minimize the risks of alcohol detox, find out how you can detox safely at an inpatient rehab.

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Delirium Tremens- a severe form of alcohol withdrawal.

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What Is Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (DTs) or alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It usually begins two to three days after an alcoholic has finished a long drinking binge.

DTs normally lasts two to three days, however, symptoms can last up to a week.

DTs affects about 5% of people who are going through alcohol withdrawal. Delirium tremens can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and even death if left untreated.

Causes and Risk Factors for Delirium Tremens

Alcohol is a sedative. It causes your brain and neurological system to slow down. When you stop drinking after a long period of time, your brain and nervous system have a hard time adjusting. Your mind deteriorates.
People with alcohol use disorders who stop drinking suddenly may have a rise in glutamate, an amino acid that causes symptoms similar to those seen in delirium tremens, such as tremors, excessive excitability, and seizures.
Delirium tremens is most common in the following people:
  • Adult men, particularly white, younger, single men,
  • People who have had seizures in the past
  • Those who have already experienced alcohol withdrawal
  • Heavy drinkers and those who have been drinking for a long time
Heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women. It is defined as 15 a week for men.
What counts as one drink in this instance are as follows:
  • Beer, 12 ounces
  • malt liquor (7 ounces)
  • a glass of wine (about 5 ounces)
  • 1.5 oz. 80 proof liquor or distilled spirits such as vodka, rum, or whiskey

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 days after your last drink. However, some symptoms may not appear for up to 10 days after you stop drinking.
They may include the following:
  • Tremors, or trembling hands and feet
  • Pain in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Aggression or rage
  • Fever
  • Startling easily
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating profusely
  • Blood pressure that is too high
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Nightmares
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pale skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Eye muscle and movement problems
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Light, sound, and touch sensitivity
  • Hyperactivity that is severe
  • Drowsiness, stupor, or exhaustion
Delirium tremens can cause rapid changes in body temperature, respiration, and blood circulation. This could result in life-threatening problems such as sepsis, irregular heartbeat, breathing difficulties, seizures, or an electrolyte imbalance, which occurs when the minerals that control the body’s activities are out of balance.
A person suffering from delirium tremens should be admitted to the hospital right away. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, dial 911 immediately.

Diagnosis of Delirium Tremens

The doctor will begin with a physical examination and a review of the patient’s medical history. They may also provide the individual — or a caregiver or loved one accompanying them — with a Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment questionnaire.
This may assist them in determining the severity of the withdrawal.
Tests that will be conducted may include:
  • Magnesium levels in the blood
  • Potassium levels in the blood
  • Brain activity is measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • A lumbar puncture is used to check the fluid in the spinal cord
  • Panel of metabolites
  • An MRI scan is used to check for evidence of seizures or a head injury
  • Toxicology examination (blood or urine)
To determine the extent of alcohol damage to the body, doctors may examine the patient’s liver, heart, nerves in the feet, and digestive system.

Treatment for Delirium Tremens

Treatment for delirium tremens begins in the hospital. The most widely prescribed drugs for alcohol withdrawal and DTs are benzodiazepines. They assist in calming the agitated nervous system. The patient may also require intravenous therapy.

The dangers of alcohol withdrawal make it clear that professional, inpatient alcohol rehab is always necessary when detoxing from alcohol

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcoholism, get in touch with us today. One of our treatment navigators will guide you to the right inpatient rehab center that specializes in alcohol addiction treatment and detox.

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