At our center for alcohol detox treatment, we unfortunately see many patients who are struggling with the DTs as a part of their alcohol withdrawals.
So, what causes DTs? Changes in the nervous system are a big factor. 1 It starts within the brain, where the nervous system throughout the body and brain attempt to equalize to a state without regular alcohol. Chronic alcohol consumption, such as with alcoholism or binge drinking, changes the brain’s production and absorption of GABA-A, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for sending messages throughout the brain and nervous system. 2
The alcohol-dependent brain will experience severe withdrawals, such as the DTs, when it has become used to functioning with alcohol. When alcohol is removed from the equation, the brain and nervous system still attempt to operate in the same alcohol-laden state, which results in confusion on all parts. While issues with neurotransmitters are the most common delirium tremens causes, not all patients experience the DTs when withdrawing from alcohol. Only about 5% of people detoxing from alcohol experience the DTs.3
The DTs can be incredibly dangerous and require medical attention. Symptoms of the DTs include:
The duration of DTs will vary from patient to patient. The more pronounced symptoms of the DTs, such as seizures, usually begin within 12 to 48 hours after the last drink and do not continue for long after that. 1
While DTs are not always a part of detox, delirium tremens can happen while patients are undergoing detox. The key is to help patients navigate through the DTs so they can emerge sober, healthy, and ready to continue onto intensive inpatient rehab. Treatment often includes medications to treat the symptoms of the DTs and emergency medical support for any severe symptoms. It is important to recognize that the DTs can not be treated at home, professional medical support is always needed to prevent deadly side effects of this rare but potentially fatal symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
Detoxing from alcohol can be deadly, and the DTs are especially deadly for those who are experiencing them. Seizures, heart attacks, and other fatal events can happen when someone is experiencing delirium tremens. Do not take the risk, detox with professional medical support to address any issues that may arise. Our Florida drug rehab programs offer medical support for alcohol detox, treating withdrawal symptoms such as the DTs with the necessary medical care. Often, patients who are dealing with the DTs may need antipsychotic medications or emergency medical support to stabilize them through this process. Optional PHP support may be needed as well.