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What Is Delirium Tremens?

a person sits looking depressed possibly wondering what is delirium tremens

Trying to quit a long-term addiction to alcohol can be intimidating and dangerous, potentially even deadly. Following someone’s last drink, acute withdrawal symptoms can cause extreme discomfort and severe health consequences. Delirium tremens (DTs) is a rare but life-threatening condition that can occur after someone struggling with alcoholism stops drinking. Managing delirium tremens and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be difficult without professional help.

If you are ready to stop drinking but are concerned about withdrawal symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek help. The team at Northpoint Recovery knows how important it is to have support when you start your recovery journey. Call 425.414.3530 today to get started.

What Is Delirium Tremens?

Delirium Tremens

DTs is the most serious and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptom after quitting alcohol. Symptoms of delirium tremens typically start within 48 to 96 hours after someone’s last drink, but they may also begin up to 10 days afterward.

Symptoms of DTs are similar to other types of alcohol withdrawal but tend to be more severe. DTs is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment since it can lead to death.

Dangers of Delirium Tremens

A Closer Look at Alcohol DT's

As mentioned, DTs is a rare but life-threatening withdrawal symptom. It’s important to note that not everyone who struggles with alcoholism will experience it. Still, you should be aware of the dangers of delirium tremens and what to look for if you or a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction.

While DTs is typically associated with withdrawal from alcohol, it can also occur after someone stops using other drugs, such as benzodiazepines.

Who Gets Delirium Tremens?

Who is at Risk for Delirium Tremens?

The exact cause of DTs is unknown, but risk factors include:

  • Age older than 65 years
  • Previous experience with DTs or other withdrawal symptoms
  • Using multiple drugs at the same time
  • High alcohol tolerance
  • A history of head injuries, seizures, or strokes
  • Long-term alcohol use
  • Stopping alcohol suddenly (going “cold turkey”) instead of tapering off
  • Alcohol withdrawal seizures
  • Severely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Liver cirrhosis or severe liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Serious heart problems, such as coronary artery disease

If you have some of the risk factors for DTs and are ready to stop drinking, it is critical to find help to withdraw from alcohol. Failing to find help could be deadly.

Delirium Tremens Symptoms

Side Effects

DTs is a complex condition with symptoms that vary from person to person. Typical physical and psychological symptoms include:

  • Agitation or excitability
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia or sleep disruptions, such as nightmares
  • Changes in vision, including seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations) or being unable to focus

Short-Term Effects of Delirium Tremens

Mental Side Effects

The short-term effects of delirium tremens are life-threatening and require prompt care. DTs can cause hallucinations, seizures, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and blood pressure and heart rate changes that can be fatal if left untreated.

Long-Term Effects of Delirium Tremens

Long-Term DT Symptoms

Long-term effects of delirium tremens include increased seizures and a higher risk of death. The long-term impact of DTs can be reduced by seeking treatment at the first sign of withdrawal symptoms.

Treating Delirium Tremens

Medical Management for Delirium Tremens

A healthcare professional can treat delirium tremens with medications to help manage symptoms, fluids, electrolytes to prevent dehydration, and other treatments.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction and showing signs of DTs, seek medical help immediately.

Alcohol Rehab at Northpoint Seattle

At Northpoint Recovery, we understand the importance of having a strong support system when you’re in recovery. Our programs work to help you overcome addiction and achieve long-lasting sobriety through therapy and group work. Our treatment programs include: 

  • Outpatient program
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Partial hospitalization program

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, professional treatment at Northpoint Recovery can help to regain control of life and build a sober future. Call 425.414.3530 today to get started.

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The Potential for Delirium Tremens DT