What is Delirium Tremens?

Delirium Tremens (more commonly referred to as the DTs) is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal occurs when an individual who is physically dependent on alcohol stops drinking suddenly. Often times this is not done within an alcohol rehab programme, which is problematic. Withdrawal symptoms most commonly occur 72 hours after the last drink; however they can also occur if the person drastically drops the volume of alcohol they are drinking. It is fairly commonplace for an individual to experience withdrawal symptoms after a full night’s sleep as the body breaks down alcohol whilst the person suffering with alcohol addiction is sleeping and so they awake with a reduced level in their system. Withdrawal symptoms can occur up to 7-10 days following cessation of alcohol usage.

The DTs are characterised by tremors, agitation, confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, sensitivity to light and sound, and seizures. The presence of DTs indicates a medical emergency and the person needs to be seen by a doctor as soon as any of these symptoms is present.

How is Delirium Tremens treated?

The presence of Delirium Tremens indicates the need for detox medication. This will typically comprise of Diazepam or Librium (sometimes a combination of the two), as well as anticonvulsants and sedatives in some situations. Detox mediation reduces the risk of the person experiencing life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. A full detox can take between 7-10 days; this is not something that the local hospital is normally able to facilitate and so normal procedure is to stabilise the person experiencing withdrawal and refer them to another service. The most effective way to be detoxed is in a residential detox centre where specialist staff are on hand around the clock to support the person.

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