Alcohol Withdrawal & Death: Delirium Tremens Treatment

Alcohol Withdrawal & Death: Delirium Tremens Treatment

What is Delirium Tremens?

Alcohol abuse is so dangerous that when individuals stop drinking, the withdrawal symptoms provoke death. This type of alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens or DTs. Since this alcohol withdrawal is dangerous, it is important for those that are experiencing it to seek medical attention while detoxing. If the proper precautions are not taken place with a delirium tremens treatment plan, withdrawing from alcohol could be your last endeavor.

What is Delirium Tremens Like?

Anyone who drinks alcohol on a frequent or long enough basis puts themselves at risk for developing an addiction to alcohol, and in turn, delirium tremens as a withdrawal symptom. To experience a withdrawal symptom so severe, the addicted individual usually consumes large amounts of alcohol during each use and neglects to eat food. Head injuries can also play a part of the reason a long-term alcoholic may experience DTs. This most dangerous symptom of alcohol withdrawal usually happens 3 days after the last drink, but in certain cases took up to 10 days to show signs. Symptoms of DTs are all that usually accompany an alcohol withdrawal plus:

  •      Changes in cognitive functioning
  •      Body shakes and tremors
  •      Seizures (with or without other symptoms)
  •      Extreme confusion
  •      Long lasting spells of sleep
  •      Delirium
  •      Excessive mood swings
  •      Fearfulness
  •      Visions and auditory hallucinations
  •      Trouble focusing
  •      Oversensitivity to sounds, lighting, and touch
  •      Irritability
  •      Restlessness
  •      Loss of appetite
  •      Body aches
  •      Chest pain
  •      Fever

What Causes Delirium Tremens?

Heavy drinkers and those who have experienced difficulties withdrawing from alcohol in the past are more at risk for experiencing delirium tremens. This is due to the fact that the body registers alcohol and responds by stopping the production of a specific neurotransmitter, GABA, over time. GABA is what is thought to transfer messages from the brain to the nervous system. Once alcohol is removed from the body, the brain reacts as though it cannot function properly without the presence of alcohol since GABA is still not being produced.

Delirium Tremens and Death

So, why does alcohol withdrawal lead to death while illegal drugs cause withdrawal that is merely painful? Without proper neurotransmitter functioning, the organ systems in the body have the potential to fail while a person undergoes DTs. This is especially true for the cardiovascular system failure, or heart function, which accounts for many of the deaths related to DTs. Of all the people who experience DTs, among almost 15% of them will die during the withdrawal process. For this reason, it is extremely important that anyone who is considering alcohol detox make deliriums tremens treatment available through the attention of medical professionals.

Delirium Tremens Treatment During Detox

A person who is detoxing from an addictive substance should always get medical guidance, but for those detoxing from heavy alcohol use, hospitalization is necessary. Without it, the chances of death are even more imminent. Although only about four percent of alcoholics experience DTs, it is impossible to tell beforehand who will experience it.

Delirium tremens treatment at a medical detox facility will ensure that medical professionals will be in control of the process at all times. This reduces the risk of death from organ failure and other complications. Additionally, it allows those affected to get the medicine they need to finish detox without dying. Individuals take sedatives for delirium tremens treatment. This allows them to sleep throughout the process of the body eliminating chemicals related to alcoholism. It also reduces the symptoms of DTs since the individual detoxing will likely be sleeping while sedated. This provides a much calmer environment to provide the individual with a higher chance for detox success. Sedation occurs up to a week or even longer, according to the symptoms apparent in the individual going through detox.

Delirium Tremens Treatment After Detox

Some people think that individuals experiencing DT should get additional treatment after detox. If a person is experiencing DTs, they have escaped the cold grip of death. Turning back to alcohol is just further tempting the grim reaper and risking their life. It is important to make a stand to remain abstinent from alcohol after detox so that DTs doesn’t occur again. Abstaining from your drug of choice is easier said than done. To help with this new lifestyle change, treatment is necessary.

Inpatient rehabilitation will allow you to seek counseling to discover underlying causes of your addiction so that you may recognize the problems in your life that need addressing. Additionally, treatment provides knowledge on coping skills that you can develop to identify relapse triggers and stay sober. Support is offered through case managers, counselors, and peers throughout treatment, so you don’t have to go about recovery alone! Although potentially facing the dangers of DTs, a life without addiction to alcohol can help you become the person that you were always meant to be!


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