Delirium tremens, also known as the DTs, is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It’s a psychotic condition characterized by hallucinations, tremors, anxiety, and disorientation. While they can also be the result of a severe infection, illness, or head injury, it is most common in chronic alcoholics who, for one reason or another, have not had any alcohol for a certain period.
- It has an anticipated mortality of up to 37% without appropriate treatment.
Experts estimate that 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Getting sober can be one of the most difficult challenges for anyone with dependency issues, especially given the relapsing nature of this condition. Heavy drinkers entering treatment or stopping cold turkey face a potentially fatal withdrawal from alcohol known as Delirium Tremens (DTs).
Withdrawal from alcohol can be physically painful, but anyone experiencing them is in the midst of a medical emergency. There is the danger of the cardiovascular system completely collapsing, which can result in death. Medical science has reduced the mortality rate, yet anywhere from 1 to 15 percent of people who develop this condition will die.
How does delirium tremens lead to death?
Delirium Tremens is a severe medical condition. There is a significant impact on the cardiovascular system and other vital parts of the body. The delirium tremens can be fatal. According to the experts, it will cause death between 1 – 15% of the cases, even with treatment available. It will cause death in 15 – 40% of the cases when no treatment is available. Death may occur in up to 5 percent of patients with Delirium tremens. According to expert sources, 2% of all alcoholics will develop delirium tremens after they stop an episode of drinking.
What are the main symptoms of delirium tremens?
Signs of alcohol withdrawal occur because alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Symptoms can present themselves in as little as 2 hours from the last drink but typically manifest anywhere from 48 to 72 hours after the last alcohol intake. Here are signs to look for if someone who is an alcohol drinker stops. Symptoms can include some of the following:
- Changes in mental functions
- Confusion, agitation, irritability
- Severe mood swings
- Sensitivity to light, touch, and sound
- Excessive sleep and sleepiness
- Anxiety and depression
They can present themselves in as little as 2 hours from the last drink but typically begin to manifest anywhere from 48 to 72 hours after the last alcohol intake. The symptoms seem to spike around the 5th day of detox. With proper medical supervision, patients can begin to recover from the condition.
Those most at risk are chronic drinkers with a history of alcoholism for ten years or more. Heavy drinking is 4 to 5 pints of wine, 7 to 8 pints of beer, or one pint of liquor every day for several weeks.
Others who are at risk can include the following:
- Alcoholics go in for surgery without informing the doctor of their alcoholism.
- Heavy drinkers who choose to quit alcohol cold-turkey.
- Individuals with previous symptoms.
- Drinkers habitually eat very little and stop drinking for a short period.
- Most people who create it are older, but the condition can affect a person of any age who’s consistently been drinking heavily.
Responding to someone with Delirium Tremens first focuses on saving the patient’s life. Once doctors have them stable, a person might need close observation for up to a week, and their symptoms manifest. Only after complete detoxification can long-term treatment for alcohol dependency and alcoholism begin.
Because of the risk of death and severe medical damage that Delirium Tremens can cause, a total and lifelong abstinence from alcohol. Alcohol rehabilitation, support groups, and counseling to help individuals genuinely recover and establish a foundation for a happy, healthy, and sober lifestyle.
* based on the data from Wikipedia, 50% of all alcoholics develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, and approximately 4% will develop delirium tremens.