delirium tremens

The Association of Delirium Tremens with Alcohol Withdrawal

An individual who suffers from alcoholism has a chemical dependency on alcohol. This means that the person’s body depends on alcohol and has become tolerant of this substance. Generally, alcoholism or alcohol use disorder develops over time, after an individual uses alcohol in unhealthy amounts over an extended period of time. Due to this physical and psychological dependence, ending alcohol use can be very difficult. Withdrawal symptoms can be serious.

Truthfully, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are far from comfortable. Some people may experience alcohol withdrawal dreams, alcohol withdrawal night terrors, or other types of sleep disturbances. Some might suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms that could even be life-threatening in some instances.

So, individuals who desire to end alcohol use should learn more about the withdrawal process and what to expect. It is also important for struggling individuals to reach out for professional assistance. With the help of clinical professionals and therapists, those who suffer from alcohol use disorder can overcome this challenge. 

A Brief Overview of Alcohol Use Disorder

Again, alcoholism (also known as alcohol use disorder) is a condition in which a person’s brain and body depend on alcohol. In simpler terms, those who suffer from alcoholism feel as though they cannot function without alcohol. This is because consistent, excessive alcohol use can physically change the structure of an individual’s brain.

After a while, those who use alcohol excessively will begin to suffer from withdrawal symptoms between periods of drinking. In an attempt to end the discomfort that comes with withdrawal, individuals who suffer from alcoholism may drink more alcohol

Delirium Tremens During Alcohol Withdrawal

Some of the commonly occurring alcohol withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. But, some individuals may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as hallucinations, frightening alcohol withdrawal dreams or alcohol withdrawal night terrors, tremors, and delirium tremens.

Delirium tremens, sometimes referred to as DTs, is a type of alcohol withdrawal that is quite severe. In fact, it can be life-threatening if the individual does not get treatment for it in a timely manner. 

How Common is Delirium Tremens?

According to data provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 3% to 5% of people experience the symptoms of delirium tremens. While this number may seem small, it is in no way insignificant.

After all, those who suffer from delirium tremens endure very serious and severe symptoms and effects. So, spreading knowledge and information about DTs can prove to be helpful and effective in helping people to both understand and address symptoms of this form of alcohol withdrawal. 

How Long Do the Symptoms of DTs Last?

Although delirium tremens can last up to 8 days, the average time period is between 48 and 36 hours. The onset of this delirium tremens occurs around 48 hours following an individual’s last drink. The most intense effects and symptoms of DTs usually occur between 4 and 5 days post use.

Identifying the Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Some of the symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Convulsions
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep difficulties
  • High blood pressure
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Hyperactivity and bursts of energy

Also, delirium tremens may result in changes in a person’s mental and cognitive functions. Individuals may also experience nervousness and become extremely angry. 

Delirium tremens can also result in unconsciousness or deep sleep. Some individuals who are withdrawing from alcohol use may encounter other serious effects including breathing problems. In some cases, those who suffer from delirium tremens may experience grand mal seizures.

Due to the seriousness of delirium tremens, medical attention and treatment are absolutely critical. Those who desire to overcome alcohol use disorder should seek professional help immediately.

Getting Treatment for Delirium Tremens

Individuals who experience the effects of delirium tremens must receive medical help immediately in order to prevent fatal results. Typically, those suffering from this form of withdrawal are hospitalized. This enables medical professionals to monitor the effects of DTs and administer the proper medications.

While in the hospital, patients suffering from delirium tremens may receive injections of thiamine or various vitamins. They may also receive sedative medications in order to keep them calm. This may also help to prevent seizures.

Treating Substance Use: Detox for Alcoholism

One of the first steps in the addiction treatment process is detoxification. Also known as detox, the detoxification process is meant to help those who are dealing with drug and alcohol misuse. Often, detox programs use a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) approach. This detox approach uses medications that can help to curve substance cravings or block some of the effects of withdrawal. This means individuals can work through the withdrawal period in a safe and more comfortable way. 

Detox is an extremely important part of the treatment process. This is mainly due to the fact that addiction has a physical dependence aspect which is not specifically addressed in any other phase of treatment. When a person goes through detoxification, he or she gains the ability to live without substance use. This is certainly important, as substance use must end before emotional and psychological dependencies can be addressed. 

Addiction is a complex disorder that truly affects every area of life. Those who suffer from it typically feel its impact in areas such as family life, financial status, work, school, social life, and more. So, it is best to go through each of the necessary steps in order to obtain true freedom from the bondage and negative effects of substance use disorder. By getting help from the proper resources and treatment levels of care, individuals can find their way to a life without addiction!

Addiction Treatment After Detox

Once an individual completes the alcohol detox process, he or she should continue to the next phase of treatment. This may be residential treatment, which is an intensive program in which individuals live at a treatment facility. While in a residential or inpatient program, those in recovery can attend various therapy sessions. They can also have access to medical and professional care 24/7.

Some individuals may go through an outpatient program if they are able to continue living at home while getting treatment. Or, individuals may enter outpatient treatment following a residential program. While in outpatient care, those in recovery can continue to receive help and support through therapy. Since this is a less intensive treatment approach, individuals may be able to work, tend to responsibilities at home, or attend school while still getting treatment.

There are multiple types of outpatient addiction treatment. One form of outpatient care is the partial hospitalization program. Commonly known as a PHP, a partial hospitalization program offers recovering individuals the opportunity to receive treatment for a minimum of 40 hours per week. Those who are suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders can benefit from this program. 

Another type of outpatient care is the intensive outpatient program. Professionals may refer to this program as an IOP and it is often a part of the addiction treatment process. Individuals may attend treatment and therapy for 12 hours every week. But, the treatment center staff will be able to develop the best plan and amount of hours for treatment.

Contact Us at Sana Lake Recovery Center

If you have been suffering from substance use disorder, you may be unsure about what to do in order to end substance use in your life. It can be difficult to overcome addiction, especially if you have been dealing with the effects of substance use for a while. If you feel alone in your struggle or you are uncertain about where to start when it comes to recovery, there is hope for you. 

Here at Sana Lake Recovery Center, we are dedicated to helping struggling individuals to find peace, healing, and freedom. So, we offer resources and treatment services that address the needs of those who wish to begin the recovery journey.

Some of the therapies, services, and programs offered here at Sana Lake include:

Our mission is to encourage and support those who are working toward a life that is free from addiction. We strive to provide the very best of care in the highest quality to those who come to our facility for help. Each member of our program has access to the most comprehensive approach to addiction treatment. Each member is treated with compassion and concern, provided by our wonderful staff here at Sana Lake.

If you have been wondering where to begin in terms of substance use treatment, allow us to guide you! We want to walk beside you as you pursue a new life and a healthier future. You do not have to do this alone. Please let the team here at Sana Lake Recovery Center assist you throughout this new journey. Reach out to us today and begin moving forward in your life! 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482134/

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.