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What Is Delirium Tremens Like?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2019, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 and older reported binge drinking, and 6.3 percent reported engaging in heavy alcohol use. Both binge drinking and heavy drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction. 

When someone is ready to get help with their drinking problem, they could experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremens. Understandably, you may wonder what delirium tremens is like and whether you are at risk of experiencing this severe withdrawal symptom.

What is Delirium Tremens? 

Delirium tremens, or DTs, is one of the more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms one can experience. DTs will usually occur during stage 3 of alcohol withdrawal. However, not all people will experience DTs. As reported by the National Library of Medicine, up to 37 percent of people who start alcohol detox can die from DTs without medically supervised detox.

What is Delirium Tremens Like?

DTs usually occur after a prolonged period of binge drinking or heavy drinking when undergoing detox. It is considered a rare yet life-threatening condition. Essentially the body enters a state of delirium, which can trigger tremors and seizures. When there are severe, they can be deadly.

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

The symptoms associated with DTs can range from unpleasant to extremely dangerous. This is why it is crucial to undergo medically supervised alcohol detox. Should early warning symptoms appear, steps can be taken to help avoid the life-threatening symptoms associated with DTs. 

Initially, when someone enters stage 3 of alcohol withdrawal, they could exhibit less severe symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Moodiness
  • Sporadic Bursts of Energy
  • Insomnia
  • Light, Touch, and Sound Sensitivity

However, some people can also experience more intense and life-threatening symptoms, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Extreme Muscle Contractions
  • Extreme Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Impaired Mental Functioning
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Coma 
  • Death

Delirium Tremens Withdrawal Timeline

Most people starting alcohol detox will go through two distinct stages of withdrawal. However, those at risk of DTS can experience the third stage of alcohol withdrawal. Stage one usually occurs within the first 24 hours after alcohol use has been discontinued.

The withdrawal symptoms at this stage are mild and are often similar to a hangover. In addition, you could experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, insomnia, and dehydration. You may also start to feel more anxious as your body flushes out the alcohol and even experience cravings for alcohol. 

The second stage is when the withdrawal symptoms intensify two to three days after the last drink. They can last for several days until they peak and then gradually decline until they disappear. 

Some common symptoms associated with stage two alcohol withdrawal include more intense stage one symptoms, elevated blood pressure, “the shakes,” and increased sweating. 

For those at risk of DTs, they can also start to experience hallucinations during stage one and minor seizures during stage two withdrawal. Stage three is when things become more serious. It is at this stage of alcohol withdrawal where seizures become more frequent. 

Seizures can start to occur as soon as two to four days after the last drink. Initially, they are mild but will grow in intensity once stage three hits. The withdrawal symptoms of stage three can last up to five days but often start to dissipate after a few days. 

During this time, you could experience extreme muscle contractions, loss of consciousness, and the other severe and life-threatening symptoms mentioned previously.

How To Avoid Delirium Tremens

The best way to avoid delirium tremens is to seek medically supervised detox from a qualified treatment facility before you stop drinking. An initial evaluation will be conducted to determine your risks of DTs. Once you enter detox, a team of medical professionals will monitor your withdrawal symptoms and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

The objective of medically supervised detox treatment is to stabilize your withdrawal symptoms and make them as less intense as possible. In addition, the use of medication-assisted treatments can be beneficial in reducing the risks of seizures and DTs. 

For example, diazepam and lorazepam are two common prescription drugs that have been found to help address the seizures associated with DTs. There are also other medications that can be used for hallucinations and the extreme anxiety and agitation that can occur during stage three alcohol withdrawal.

Delirium Tremens And Alcohol Detox Treatment in Nashville

Now that you know more about what delirium tremens is like, you know it is possible to avoid DTs with medically supervised withdrawal and medication-assisted treatment. Here at Detox Nashville, we can help you take the first steps to get sober at our luxury treatment facility.

We offer personalized detox treatment programs that take into consideration your specific needs and concerns. During detox, you have access to our facility amenities, individual counseling, and holistic therapy treatment. We can also assist you with transitioning to an alcohol rehab program once your detox is completed. 
Do not hesitate to contact us to speak with an addiction treatment specialist today to schedule your alcohol detox assessment or to learn more about our medically supervised detox treatment programs.

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