Withdrawal from an alcohol addiction can involve a number of painful and uncomfortable symptoms that occur throughout the process of detox. One of the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens and it tends to be a problem for the heaviest drinkers who are attempting to quit cold turkey.
Delirium tremens or DTs involves an altered mental status with patients in a state of confusion and disorientation. While the exact cause of delirium tremens is still debated it is most likely due to alcohol's effects on the brain and a chemical dependency that makes it difficult for alcoholics to function without drinking.
This form of withdrawal is the most dangerous of any symptom and can involve a risk of death if the alcoholic is not medically supervised. When your body goes into delirium tremens it is a signal that you have been drinking to point of complete physical dependency.
Symptoms of Delirium Tremens
The first symptoms of delirium tremens usually begin within a few days of the last drink. A person going through DTs will often have seizures and experience violent shaking.
They also will have foggy thinking and confusion that is more pronounced than it would be with normal alcohol withdrawal. One of the more severe symptoms of DTs is when a patient experiences hallucinations and visions of things like moving animals or insects crawling on their skin.
Individuals will have symptoms of agitation, excitability, high anxiety as well as elevated pulse, blood pressure and temperature. In the past delirium tremens had a high mortality rate but these cases are now rare and most alcoholics going through withdrawal will not experience any symptoms of DTs.
When the problem does occur it is usually in individuals who have been drinking heavily for many years. Suddenly quitting drinking can send their body into delirium because it cannot function normally without alcohol.
Treatment When You Have DTs
If you think you are experiencing some of the symptoms of delirium tremens it is important to get medical treatment right away. This type of withdrawal can be the most dangerous and intense of all alcohol detox symptoms.
The doctor can run tests to determine if you are suffering from DTs and provide you a safe place to get through withdrawal. Treatment for DTs can include intravenous fluids, anticonvulsants to stop seizures and tremors, sedatives to treat anxiety and excitability, antipsychotic medications to prevent hallucinations and medication to reduce fever.
The doctor may also be able to refer you to a detox center that can help you though the remainder of your withdrawal period if you were attempting to quit on your own. It is important that you receive adequate medical treatment for DTs as this type of alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. It might take a week or so for symptoms to improve while you are staying in the hospital.
After recovering from delirium tremens you may still suffer from some of the other, less severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Less dangerous symptoms such as sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and fatigue are common issues with alcoholics who are going through the process of detoxification.
There is no way to predict who will suffer from a problem like delirium tremens as it is relatively uncommon for the average alcoholic going into recovery. If you have been an especially heavy drinker for many years then the safest option is to enter a detox treatment center that will offer medical assistance should you experience any of the symptoms of DTs.
Proper treatment and care can help you avoid the potentially fatal consequences of going through delirium tremens.