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Delirium Tremens: Symptoms, Timeline, & Treatment – Orlando Treatment Solutions

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By Orlando Treatment May 24, 2023

Delirium Tremens: Symptoms, Timeline, & Treatment – Orlando Treatment Solutions

What Is Delirium Tremens?

what does delirium tremens feel like

Delirium Tremens (DTs) is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It can cause disorientation, tremors, anxiety, and even hallucinations. Most often, delirium tremens occurs after an individual with an alcohol addiction stops drinking. This form of withdrawal can happen when you stop drinking alcohol suddenly after a period of excessive drinking.

Delirium Tremens is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. If untreated, DTs can lead to seizures, stroke, or a heart attack. Not only is this a physical condition, but addiction is also a mental health disorder, requiring addiction therapy and counseling services.

What Does Delirium Tremens Feel Like?

Delirium Tremens will feel very uncomfortable and several of the symptoms can be scary. It shares some of the common withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and fever. Even the tremors can occur in regular withdrawal from alcohol. The delirium sets DTs apart from typical withdrawal symptoms. If you’re experiencing DTs, you may be confused and disoriented, unsure of where you’re at or make sense of what’s happening around you.

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Here are the most common symptoms of delirium tremens:

  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors (shaking of the hands, head, arms, or legs)
  • Sweating profusely
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Seizures

If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical help right away, since DTs can lead to more serious health complications.

How Long Do Delirium Tremens Last?

Delirium tremens typically occur on the third day after you stop drinking alcohol. It can last for as short as 24 hours and as long as six days. In very rare cases, DTs may last for longer, up to weeks.

Risk Factors

There are some factors that can increase the risk of DTs happening. Understanding the risk factors of delirium tremens can help you prevent this condition. Risk factors include:

  • Heavy and prolonged alcohol use: The highest risk factor for DTs is drinking large amounts of alcohol for a long period. Heavy alcohol use may change the brain and nervous system, making you more susceptible to these withdrawal symptoms.
  • Older age: Older adults are at higher risk because their nervous system may weaken with age and become more susceptible.
  • Poor nutrition: Malnutrition weakens the body’s ability to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
  • Previous withdrawal: If you have experienced alcohol withdrawal previously, you may be at a higher risk of DTs, because your alcohol use spans for a longer period of time.
  • Using other drugs: When combined with alcohol use, drugs such as benzodiazepines or opioids increase the risk of developing DTs. The effect these drugs have on the central nervous system can also worsen the symptoms of DTs.
  • Genetics: If another family member has an alcohol use disorder, this can increase your risk. There is some evidence that genetics plays a part in developing DTs.
  • Chronic illness: A chronic medical condition such as liver disease, heart disease, or kidney disease can make you more susceptible to the symptoms of DTs.

What Happens During Delirium Tremens?

how long do delirium tremens last

The timeline of delirium tremens can vary depending on the individual and their alcohol use. However, DTs symptoms often follow a pattern.

  • First 6-48 Hours

    Someone can typically feel the first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as early as six hours after they stop drinking. Between six and 48 hours, you may experience mild symptoms of tremors, sweating, nausea, or anxiety. If you can get medical attention early, then the rest of your DTs symptoms will be less severe and you may prevent onset of the condition.

  • 48-72 Hours

    Two to three days after you stop drinking alcohol, the symptoms of DTs may begin to appear. At this time, you may experience hallucinations, agitation, confusion, and disorientation.

  • 3-5 Days

    The symptoms of DTs usually peak within three to five days after your last drink. You may experience seizures, rapid heart rate, and fever. The previous symptoms of delirium may still be occurring.

  • 5-7 Days

    Symptoms of delirium tremens likely will begin to subside after five to seven days. But symptoms such as anxiety and tremors may last for several more weeks. With medical attention, you can prevent the condition from worsening.

Treatment for Delirium Tremens

The primary treatment for delirium tremens is medication. When you go to a medical provider, they will assess your symptoms and likely start administering either benzodiazepines or antipsychotics. These medications reduce the symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, and hallucinations.

Other treatments support overall health and may include intravenous fluids to hydrate you and prevent kidney failure, nutritional support, sedation if required for your safety, and close monitoring of all your vitals. After the medication treatment, it’s recommended that someone with DTs attends therapy to help address the underlying causes of alcohol use.

If you plan on quitting alcohol, you should avoid trying to quit cold turkey on your own. It’s safest to go to a detox rehab so that you can receive medical assistance for withdrawal symptoms from the start.

How To Prevent Delirium Tremens

The most effective way to prevent DTs is to avoid heavy drinking and long-term alcohol use. If you struggle with alcohol use and feel a dependency on this substance, you can seek treatment for alcohol use disorder. A treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse can help you safely quit drinking and provide you with psychological treatment to prevent relapse.

Orlando Treatment Solutions Can Assist With Alcohol Addiction

You can overcome an alcohol addiction at our rehab center in Orlando, Florida. Using evidence-based treatments, we provide individual care and give you all the support and treatments you need in recovery. Call us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we help achieve long-lasting sobriety.

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Orlando Treatment Solutions will iron out the details for you in a manner that will make you confident in your path to sobriety. That first simple call is your ticket to making Orlando Treatment Solutions your solution for addiction. Get the freedom from addiction that you deserve today.

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