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Delirium tremens (DT) are defined by Medscape as “the most severe form of ethanol withdrawal, manifested by altered mental status (global confusion) and sympathetic overdrive (autonomic hyperactivity), which can progress to cardiovascular collapse.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains “ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches.” Delirium associated with excessive alcohol consumption has been known since antiquity. The undeniable connection between alcohol abuse and delirium tremens dates to 1813 when DT was first recognized and universally accepted as a disorder specifically attributed to alcohol abuse. Delirium tremens, when not medically attended to can become fatal. The death rate from delirium tremens is thirty-seven percent (without proper treatment) and fifteen percent (with proper treatment). Do not delay in seeking medical treatment as soon as possible if signs of delirium tremens present. 

Risk Factors and Prevention

Habitually abusing alcohol over an extended period affects how one’s brain functions by interfering with one’s ability to regulate brain chemicals. There are certain risk factors that can increase one’s propensity for developing delirium tremens, which include the following, according to Winchester Hospital:

  • Seizure history
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Chronic alcohol abuse
  • History of delirium tremens

It is important to note that not all individuals that recover from alcohol abuse or addiction will inevitably experience delirium tremens. Some research has concluded that benzodiazepines can be effective in preventing delirium tremens. Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs prescribed in America that are often used for the treatment of anxiety, panic disorders, muscle spasms, and seizure disorders. They are man-made medications that work by affecting one’s neurotransmitters, enhancing the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in one’s brain. In treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms, benzodiazepines work by imitating the effects of alcohol in one’s brain which in turn prevent withdrawal symptoms from developing. The most obvious method to prevent delirium tremens is to avoid drinking alcohol, and if one does choose to drink alcohol to abstain from consuming excessive amounts.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.