Alcohol Detox: What You Need to Know About Delirium Tremens

October 7, 2021

If you’ve heard of the alcohol detox process and withdrawal symptoms, you might have heard of delirium tremens. Let’s take a closer look. 

As defined by MedlinePlus, delirium tremens is “a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes.” Delirium happens when a heavy drinker stops drinking abruptly. Someone who is a heavy drinker might also experience delirium if they have a head injury, are sick, or are not eating enough as they reduce their alcohol use. Fear of delirium is a big reason many alcoholics do not quit drinking cold turkey. We understand that this could be a complicated process for many people, so today, we will talk about alcohol detox and withdrawal to clear up the subject.

Delirium Tremens and Alcohol Withdrawal 

Alcohol withdrawal happens because your brain becomes over-excited since the effects of alcohol consumption are no longer suppressing your brain. As a refresher, alcohol is a depressant. It suppresses certain neurotransmitters in your brain, which causes that relaxed feeling when you drink. Daily drinking causes your brain and body to depend on alcohol over time, which will irritate the nervous system. Once your brain and body are addicted, your central nervous system has difficulty handling the shock of a lack of alcohol. This sudden shock to the body is what we consider withdrawal delirium. 

Who Is at Risk for Delirium Tremens? 

You might find that you’re at risk for withdrawal delirium if you’ve been drinking heavily over a long period. For reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider heavy drinking to be someone who drinks fifteen alcoholic beverages a week if they are a man or eight alcoholic drinks a week for a woman.

Someone who also indulges in binge drinking might also be at risk. Binge drinking is four or more drinks in one sitting for a woman and five or more drinks in one sitting for a man. 

What Do You Mean by “Drink”?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a “standard” drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in the following:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol

If you notice that your drinking behaviors or the drinking behaviors of someone you love are similar to those listed above, you must seek professional help now. 

How Does Alcohol Withdrawal Feel? 

Delirium tremens might take a few days to settle in after stopping drinking or a sudden decrease. People who have experienced alcohol withdrawal suggest that the worst days occur between days three and seven after quitting. Here are the most common symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal: 

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Overstimulation
  • Eye and muscle movement problems
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations 
  • Increased heart rate or breathing rate
  • Exaggerated reactions to light and sound
  • Tremors (involuntary, rhythmic muscle contraction leading to shaking movements0
  • Nausea
  • Nightmares
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain

Experiencing Delirium Tremens 

Many symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are signs of delirium tremens. The following is what someone with delirium tremens would experience: 

  • Nightmares
  • Agitation
  • Global confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations (seeing a hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Tactile hallucinations (the impression that something is touching you when nothing is there or a skin-crawling feeling)
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Heavy sweating

Seeking Help with Steps Recovery Centers 
If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol abuse or any other form of substance addiction, please seek help immediately. At Steps Recovery Centers, we use detox methods medically supervised and proven to help with substance addiction recovery. Our staff is friendly and will be by your side as you work through the detoxification process and the recovery programs we offer. We believe that anyone that walks through our doors has a chance at a new life filled with health and joy, free of addiction. We have recovery centers in St. George, Payson, and Draper, Utah, so contact us today to learn more about our recovery services and programs and make an appointment for a free consultation.

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