Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe disturbance of the brain caused by alcohol withdrawal. They are thought to occur in about 5% of patients hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal.
The sudden withdrawal or decrease of alcohol can cause severe disturbances in the brain.
© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
DTs occur when a person who repeatedly drinks large amounts of alcohol suddenly stops or decreases the amount of alcohol consumed.
These factors increase your chance of developing DTs:
Symptoms usually begin 2-4 days after suddenly stopping or decreasing alcohol intake. Symptoms may include:
In severe cases, DTs can result in death, especially if untreated.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis of DTs is usually based on the symptoms and signs of the disorder. Tests may include:
Treatment can be difficult. DTs are likely to last for 5-7 days regardless of the therapy used. Clearing of DTs may begin in 12-24 hours, but may take up to 2-10 days. Treatment for alcohol abuse is necessary once DTs are under control.
Treatment may include:
Medicines may include:
Severe, life-threatening vitamin deficiency or dehydration may accompany DTs. Treatment may include:
Treatment for alcohol abuse may be done in a hospital setting or while living at home. It may involve individual or group therapy . Many people seek support by participating in groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
If you are diagnosed as experiencing DTs, follow your doctor's instructions .
Last reviewed March 2011 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.