​​What are Alcohol Delirium Tremens?

Heavy alcohol abuse can often lead to severe withdrawal. One of the most severe forms of alcohol withdrawal is called alcohol withdrawal delirium, also known as delirium tremens (DTS). In 1813, DTS was officially recognized as a disorder attributed to excessive alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction.

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease caused by excessive consumption of alcohol despite the repeated negative consequences as a result of drinking. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and slows down brain activity, which also slows down physical bodily functions. Alcohol affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that act as your brain’s messengers to other parts of the brain and nervous system. Drinking alcohol suppresses certain neurotransmitters, which leads to impaired behavioral and cognitive functions. As a result, those who have developed an addiction, become so dependent on the substance that both their mental and physical state of being can be negatively affected.

A dark silhouette of a person experiencing alcohol delirium tremens is hunched over holding a bottle of wine.

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So what are alcohol DTS? DTS are a collection of intense and dangerous psychological and physical symptoms that can lead to sudden and severe mental and central nervous system changes. Some of the most prominent signs of DTS include:

  • Body tremors
  • Changes in mental function
  • Delirium and hallucinations
  • Quick mood changes
  • Sensitivity to light sound and touch
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pains and increased heart rate
  • Confusion, delusions and fear
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures

DT generally occurs when an individual with a history of excessive drinking stops drinking alcohol after a long period of heavy or binge drinking. An estimated 50% of those who have an alcohol addiction, experience some sort of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For those who require a high alcohol intake, reduced consumption of alcohol too suddenly or too quickly can lead to distressing and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Other than observing the signs of DTS, to determine and officially diagnose DTS, some medical professionals issue the following tests:

  • Blood magnesium test – low levels of magnesium can affect normal heart functions and are a sign of AUD or severe alcohol withdrawal
  • ECG (electrocardiograph) – testing the electrical activity of the heart to determine functionality and condition
  • EEG (electroencephalogram) – evaluating electrical activity in the brain
  • Toxicology screen – measuring the amount of alcohol in the body

Within the alcohol withdrawal timeline, seizures can occur as early as 12 hours after the last drink followed by the 48-hour mark where other symptoms of alcoholic delirium tremens develop and could last for as long as five days. Treatments for DTS and other forms of alcohol withdrawal symptoms consist of medical alcohol detox and various alcohol use disorder therapies.

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

At Hotel California by the Sea, clients suffering from alcohol addiction who experience DTS will be entrusted with medical detox care. Clients can expect 24/7 care from medical physicians, psychiatrists, case managers and other clinical rehab personnel. Clients will be regularly evaluated to adjust any necessary medications or therapies to treat uncomfortable and life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms that occur with alcoholic delirium tremens. Hotel California by the Sea specializes in creating individualized treatment plans to address the needs of men, women and young adults suffering from alcohol abuse. Through a combination of medication-assisted treatments and comprehensive alcohol use disorder therapies, clients will have the greatest success in recovery.