When someone with an alcohol addiction stops drinking, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Some are so dangerous, like delirium tremens or DTs, that they may cause death. This is why seeking medical attention while detoxing is recommended. If you or a loved one is preparing to enter recovery, take a look at how to get rid of DTs by understanding the effects you may experience and the available treatment options.
The Effects of Delirium Tremens
Long-term drinking that involves consuming large amounts of alcohol while neglecting to eat food can result in severe withdrawal symptoms like DTs. Other high risk factors include past struggles with withdrawal or experiencing a head injury, illness or infection during heavy alcohol use.
DTs are caused by the body registering alcohol and responding by gradually stopping the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that transfers messages from the brain to the nervous system. After alcohol is removed from the body, the brain reacts as though it can’t function properly without alcohol in the system since the production of GABA is still stalled.
According to MedlinePlus, symptoms typically occur 48 to 96 hours after the last drink but may take as long as 7 to 10 days. Symptoms can worsen quickly and include:
- Body tremors or shakes
- Excitement or fear
- Changes in mental function
- Energy bursts
- Agitation or irritability
- Long periods of deep sleep
- Sporadic mood changes
- Delirium or sudden severe confusion
- Sensitivity to sounds, touch and lighting
- Loss of appetite
- Body aches and chest pain
- Trouble focusing
In severe cases, organ failure is possible and may result in death.
How Much Do You Have to Drink to Get DTs?
DTs most commonly occurs when a person has a history of alcohol withdrawal. MedlinePlus reports that those who drink 4 to 5 pints of wine, 7 to 8 pints of beer or 1 pint of hard liquor every day for a month are more likely to experience DTs. Those who have used alcohol for more than 10 years are also susceptible.
If you’re wondering how to avoid delirium tremens fully, the best option is to avoid or reduce alcohol use. You should also get prompt medical treatment as soon as withdrawal symptoms occur.
How to Get Rid of DTs Through Treatment
The symptoms of DTs usually only last about 3 to 4 days but can persist for up to 8 days. Medical guidance is always suggested when detoxing from an addictive substance. Hospitalization is sometimes also necessary. Even though DTs aren’t very common, the effects can be severe. If there’s even a chance you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms, it’s imperative to get checked out right away.
Getting Diagnosed With DTs
There are two distinct aspects of DTs: A person must be in severe alcohol withdrawal, and they must be experiencing delirium. Alcohol withdrawal can be characterized by a number of symptoms, including nausea, hand tremors, hyperactivity, transient hallucinations, headaches, insomnia or increased agitation. Experiencing at least three symptoms indicates alcohol withdrawal, according to the National Library of Medicine.
DTs is treated as a medical emergency. Health care providers will perform a physical exam and look for signs such as an irregular or rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, issues with eye muscle movement, muscle tremors and increased startle reflex. Once the signs have been identified, the provider may then perform one of the following tests:
- Blood magnesium level
- Blood phosphate level
- Toxicology screen
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
Multiple factors are considered during the testing period, such as the severity of alcohol withdrawals, the severity of delirium and other risk factors and comorbidities associated with chronic use of alcohol. The provider also conducts a general assessment of the patient’s history with alcohol, including the duration, pattern and quantity of alcohol consumption.
Clinical Intervention for DTs
The goals of treatment for DTs are to save the person’s life, avoid complications and relieve symptoms. A hospital stay is sometimes needed so health care professionals can monitor vital signs, body fluid levels and check blood chemistry results, including electrolyte levels. While in the hospital, medication is provided to treat mental health disorders, seizures, tremors or anxiety. A sedative may be administered to help the patient stay calm until their body finishes eliminating any chemicals related to alcoholism.
Long-term preventive treatment typically begins after a person recovers from DTs symptoms and is discharged from the hospital. Counseling or support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are encouraged to help an individual through recovery. A drying-out period in which no alcohol is allowed or even lifelong abstinence should be followed to avoid experiencing DTs again.
How to Treat DTs at Home
If you’re wondering how to get rid of DTs at home, know that it can be dangerous. Detoxing at home may seem like a good solution because it’s seemingly more cost-effective. People tend to feel more comfortable in their own homes than at a hospital or treatment center and believe the easiest solution to ending an alcohol addiction is to simply stop consuming.
But by detoxing at home, you risk experiencing dangerous physical and mental health effects you may not have the means to treat on your own. Hospitals and treatment centers have access to medications that relieve symptoms. Home detox also doesn’t offer aftercare treatment that can lead to long-lasting sobriety.
Detoxing alone is not recommended. Proper medical treatment is the most effective way to stay comfortable during detox.
Seeking Help for Delirium Tremens
If you or a loved one is experiencing withdrawal symptoms or has plans to stop drinking alcohol soon, proper medical treatment is available to make the process as comfortable as possible. Contact us at FHE today at (833) 596-3502. Our compassionate team of counselors is available 24/7 to take your call and help you make the first move toward recovery.