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Delirium Tremens

Alcoholism is a life threatening disease. Heavy drinkers, when suddenly stop drinking may suffer from life threatening alcohol withdrawal symptom, which are best known as delirium tremens.

The symptoms of DTs can be seen most often within 48-96 hours or up to 7-10 days. It is a medical emergency with a risk of high mortality rate because of the altered mental state and sympathetic overdrive that can result in cardiovascular collapse.

Overdose of alcohol influences the neurotransmitter system in the brain to a great extent and the sudden withdrawals can disturb the mental state.

Delirium tremens may be caused by a head injury, illness or infection in people who have a history of heavy drinking. People who have at least 6 months history of heavy drinking (4 to 5 pints of wine or 7 to 8 pints of beer everyday) may suffer from DTs.


Quick treatment is must if there are

  • Changes in mental function
  • Hallucination
  • Quick mood swing
  • Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
  • Body tremors
  • Severe agitation
  • Severe sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Delusions
  • Cardiovascular problems

ignoring  delirium tremens symptoms can be fatal.


Contact a good psychiatrist as soon as possible. Medical history and symptoms related questions are usually asked. One must be honest while answering  the questions, because DT diagnosis is based on the symptoms and signs.

Blood tests , electroencephalogram, CT scan and MRI scan may be done for making the right diagnosis.


Treatment of DT is difficult and time consuming. It is must that the patient’s family members maintain patience and continue the treatment. Control of Delirium Tremens symptoms may take 2 to 10 days. Medication is given that includes sedatives, anticonvulsants, antiseizure medications and IV fluids and vitamins are recommended because the patient may suffer from severe vitamin deficiency. Both inpatient and outpatient treatments are recommended but DT patients mostly require inpatient care because it is difficult for them to continue medication and be abstinent.

When symptoms are under control, rehabilitation program is recommended. Individual and group therapy, are included for the best outcome. Cognitive therapy helps in teaching how to divert mind away from alcohol consumption. Laughter therapy, yoga and social therapy are a part of rehab programs to normalize the life of people facing DT.






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