Delirium Tremens: Managing the Risks

Delirium tremens is a medical condition characterised by severe anxiety, agitation and hallucinations. It occurs as the result of withdrawal from alcohol or other sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Symptoms usually begin within 24 hours after discontinuation of these medications. Delirium tremens can be dangerous if untreated. DTs occur in approximately 10% of patients who stop drinking abruptly after long-term chronic use of alcohol. The following guide explains what Delirium Tremens (DT) is, the signs and symptoms and how to manage the side effects associated with DT. Speak to one of our trained addiction counsellors today if you have any questions or concerns about DT.

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What Causes Delirium Tremens

The specific cause of delirium tremens is unknown. However, it typically occurs in people who drink large amounts of alcohol for an extended period of time. Withdrawal symptoms are more likely to develop when there has been long-term use of alcohol. The risk increases with higher alcohol consumption and duration of use.

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Signs & Symptoms

The following are the cardinal features of DTs:

  • Delirium: The patient has a global cognitive impairment that includes disorientation in time and place, inability to recognise familiar people or places, impaired memory, and decreased attention span.
  • Sympathetic overdrive: Restlessness, agitation, nervousness, irritability, and increased heart rate and respiratory rate. These symptoms if left unmanaged, can be fatal.

How Long will Symptoms of DT Last?

Symptoms of DT last only about 48 hours after they first appear. They may recur at any time during this period. In some cases, the person may experience another episode of DT several days later. Other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may persist for many days or weeks after, speak to a medical professional if you are experiencing persistent withdrawal symptoms.

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Reducing the Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Prevention of DTs depends on preventing the development of alcoholism. There are no specific treatments available for DTs once they have occurred. Treatment focuses on managing the acute phase of the illness. Benzodiazepines, such as Chlordiazepoxide are commonly prescribed to treat insomnia and anxiety disorders. They work by binding to receptors in the brain that regulate sleep and emotional responses. If you are seeking treatment through a private rehab, the medical team will assess your dependence and may prescribe it to you during your alcohol detox.

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Get Help for Alcohol Dependence with the Providence Projects

The Providence Projects may provide a managed alcohol detox as part of your alcohol addiction treatment programme. Treating alcohol addiction requires a combination of therapies including individual counselling, group therapy, family counselling, educational seminars, 12 step therapy, and more. Our goal is to provide our clients with the tools necessary to achieve lasting recovery.

Our services are provided by trained counsellors and medical professionals, so that you or someone you love can recover from alcoholism in a safe and supportive environment. When you arrive at our treatment centre, a medical assessment will be carried out prior to an alcohol detox, our in-house GP can provide medication if they believe you or a loved one may be at risk from severe alcohol withdrawal. Speak to one of our counsellors today if you have concerns about alcohol detoxification or withdrawal symptoms.