What Causes DTs?


Delirium tremens, often abbreviated as the DTs, is an incredibly severe type of alcohol withdrawal in which the individual withdrawing from alcohol experiences shakes, confusion, and even hallucinations among other symptoms.

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.

Exploring DTs Causes

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

Delirium Tremens Symptoms

The DTs can be incredibly dangerous and require medical attention. Symptoms of the DTs include:

  • Tremors throughout the body
  • Changes in mental or cognitive function
  • Fear, agitation, or irritability
  • Deep sleep that lasts for at least a day
  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors
  • Problems with eye muscles
  • Increased startle reflex
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain

How Long Can Delirium Tremens Last?

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

Treatments for DTs

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.

Getting Professional Treatment for Alcohol Detox Can Save Your Life

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.

If your loved one needs help detoxing from alcohol in a safe and medically monitored setting, contact our team at Banyan Detox Stuart today. Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about our supportive detox programs.


  1. MedlinePlus – Delirium tremens
  2. Medscape – Delirium Tremens (DTs)
  3. Verywell mind – What it’s like to Go through the DTs

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.