Alcohol is considered by many addiction experts to be one of the most difficult
to withdraw from. For this reason, it is always advised that a person who is addicted to alcohol go through the process of detoxing while under the supervision of a qualified medical staff.
When a person is addicted to alcohol, their brain's reward center becomes entirely consumed with finding and drinking more alcohol. When the reward center does not get the alcohol it wants, it sends signals to the brain to fire off a number of unpleasant symptoms.
These symptoms are known as withdrawal symptoms. It is very common for a person who is addicted to any type of drug to experience withdrawal symptoms, and the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal include nausea, seizures, and delirium tremens.
What exactly are delirium tremens?
Delirium Tremens: Latin For Shaking Frenzy
The latin name for delirium tremens more or less explains what happens when a person suffers from it. Generally, delirium tremens occurs in a person who is very dependent on alcohol, but even a person who is not addicted per se may suffer from delirium tremens after a night of heavy drinking.
When a person suffers from delirium tremens, they often hallucinate or have disturbing nightmares or visions. They may often experience auditory hallucinations or "hearing things." In addition to experiencing nightmarish visions and waking dreams, a person who is suffering from delirium tremens will also often get "the shakes," or severe shakiness, as well as an intense episode of anxiety.
The shakes that are associated with delirium tremens may be the result of alcohol withdrawal, or they may be related to the anxiety that comes with it. Many people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks report feeling heart palpitations and a feeling of unsteadiness.
The Physiological Reason Behind Delirium Tremens
The reason that so many people suffer from delirium tremens when withdrawing from alcohol is that alcohol and other sedatives impact the same area of the brain that signals to the body that it is time to go to sleep. This system is known as the GABA chemical and transmitter somatic system.
When a person's brain has become very accustomed to being under the influence of a sedative like alcohol, it may effectively fall into disarray when supply of alcohol is suddenly cut off. The brain then sends what are effectively confused distress signals that kick into effect delirium tremens.
The Importance of Support During Detox
Many alcoholics who are ready to stop drinking may make an attempt to stop drinking cold turkey on their own. This is inadvisable for many reasons. Delirium tremens and the symptoms associated with it can cause many scary and dangerous thoughts that may lead a person to make very harmful decisions if they are not in a safe space and under the care of an expert.
The tremens themselves can lead to serious health problems like seizures, and if a person detoxes in an environment where they do not have access to adequate severe medical help, they may be at a risk for brain damage and even death.
The unpleasant nature of the hallucinations associated with delirium tremens also puts an alcoholic at high risk for relapse as they may be compelled to drink alcohol in order to stop the unpleasant thoughts, visions, and other emotions that arise when they suddenly stop drinking. When detox occurs in the context of a treatment center, a recovering alcoholic can safely and effectively make their way through this difficult and often painful experience so that they may begin to focus on sobriety.