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Delirium Tremens

Alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous due to the possibility of seizures and the possibility of delirium tremens (DT’s). Seizures and delirium tremens or DT’s can both be life threatening. Seizures are more common and better known to the general public. DT’s are less common but have a higher lethality than seizures.


Alcoholic Seizures: Seizures can occur in anyone who is physically dependent on alcohol and who stops drinking. The brain becomes dependent on alcohol over a period of time and when it is taken away precipitously, the brain may react by having a gran mal seizure.

Alcohol Withdrawal and DT’s

Alcohol Withdrawal and DT’s: According to the National Institute of Health; “Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or neurological changes. Delirium tremens can occur after a period of heavy alcohol drinking, especially when the person does not eat enough food.It may also be triggered by head injury, infection, or illness in people with a history of heavy alcohol use. It is most common in people who have a history of alcohol withdrawal. It is especially common in those who drink the equivalent of 4 – 5 pints of wine or 7 – 8 pints of beer (or 1 pint of “hard” alcohol) every day for several months. Delirium tremens also commonly affects those who have had a history of habitual alcohol use or alcoholism for more than 10 years.”

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

According to the National Institute of Health:

“Symptoms most commonly occur within 72 hours after the last drink, but may occur up to 7 – 10 days after the last drink. Symptoms may get worse rapidly, and can include:

  • Body tremors
  • Mental status changes
    • Agitation, irritability
    • Confusion, disorientation
    • Decreased attention span
    • Decreased mental status
      • Deep sleep that persists for a day or longer
      • Stupor, sleepiness, lethargy
      • Usually occurs after acute symptoms
    • Delirium (severe, acute loss of mental functions)
    • Excitement
    • Fear
    • Hallucinations (such as seeing or feeling things that are not present are most common)
    • Highly sensitive to light, sound, touch
    • Increased activity
    • Mood changes rapidly
    • Restlessness, excitement”

Alcohol withdrawal and DT’s: Delirium tremens is a serious medical emergency and can result in death. Signs may include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Increased startle reflex
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Problems with eye muscle movement
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid muscle tremors

Treatment must be given at a hospital immediately in the event of seizures or delirium tremens.

The early recognition of alcohol withdrawal and the early treatment with appropriate medications will decrease the likelihood of alcohol seizures and delirium tremens. To date, Executive Home Detox has not had a client develop seizures or DT’s during an alcohol detox. We attribute this to early intervention with appropriate medications.

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