Delirium tremens (DTs), more commonly known as, alcohol withdrawal is likely to occur in people who have a history of alcohol abuse or heavy alcohol use for years at a time. If this level of drinking stops abruptly, delirium tremens can happen. Alcoholism is a disease that progresses over time and continues to damage your liver and other organs. However, your body learns to adapt because alcohol addiction changes the way you think and act.
The addiction will trick you body into thinking it needs alcohol to survive. The more you drink, the more your body builds up a tolerance to the side effects of alcohol. You’ll need to drink more and more alcohol to reach the same type of euphoric feelings or desired effects as before. This quickly leads to dependency, followed by addiction.
Since the body becomes conditioned to alcohol use, a sudden change can be just as hard on the body. The alcohol withdrawal process is best done slowly to give the body time to react and adapt to changes in a healthy way. The amount of time delirium tremens lasts varies from person to person, but usually withdrawal lasts about 7 to 10 days. It depends on how long you’ve battling alcoholism; how much you normally drink per day; and your general health.
Cravings are at their strongest at the beginning of the detox phase because of how accustomed the body has become to having alcohol in the system. It is in the first few days that symptoms are most intense, but overall, delirium tremens is the most intense form of alcohol withdrawal. It’s best monitored by medical professionals who can supervise each day of the withdrawal process.
It is a severe strain on the body as it tries to fight off the longstanding disease. You may not be able to eat anything or feel like getting out of bed. It can cause serious side effects and in some cases, it can be fatal. Although many of the major symptoms of DTs will last during this first week, people who suffer from long-term alcoholism may experience symptoms for months, years, or even the rest of their life.
Delirium Tremens Symptoms
There are a range of symptoms that can occur during the delirium tremens phase. Physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms may all occur as part of the process. These may include:
- Mood swings
- Restlessness or irritability
- Sensitivity to lights and sounds
- Extreme fatigue
- Changes in how you process information
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Some may be stronger than others or last longer than most. During alcohol withdrawal, you may also experience seizures and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Again, it’s highly recommended to go through the symptoms of delirium tremens under the supervision of medical professionals in a treatment facility. Your body will be under high duress during the withdrawal; the reaction can be unpredictable and dangerous. Treatment center staff will do everything to make you as comfortable as possible.
It’s not advised to go through delirium tremens alone. In addition to the extra risks it poses to your health, being in a rehab facility will also provide you the kind of support and strength you may need to fight cravings and ultimately, relapse.
What Happens Following Delirium Tremens?
During delirium tremens, you may experience setbacks. It may take longer than originally planned for, but you must go through the entire withdrawal process before you’re ready to enter the rehabilitation phase. For this reason, many treatment facilities offer both services in the same place. Once you finish one phase you can more easily move into the next without changing location.
Every rehab program has similar guidelines of the different steps you must take to reach sobriety. However, your sobriety plan is based on your specific needs. An admissions counselor or program director will help you to map out your own milestones and goals. In addition to sober living, what do you hope to achieve while in rehab? What would you like to know or learn about when going through the treatment process? Of course, the main goal is to improve your health, but how else do you want to benefit from this care?
Inpatient or outpatient care lasts over the course of 30 days or in some cases, 60 days or longer depending on the level of care you need. Those who choose not to receive ongoing care after the alcohol withdrawal period often experience relapse. Through each stage of the process, you are building back your physical health, but also your emotional stability and well-being as well.Speak with a treatment specialist today.
Signs of Alcoholism
It may not always be as easy as you might think to spot signs of alcoholism. Most alcoholics are self-diagnosed and many go without diagnosis for years. It’s different for everyone depending on how much you drink, how long you’ve been drinking, and how drinking affects your body. Factors also include age, gender, and family history of alcohol abuse.
In some cases, alcoholism can have a highly visible negative effect on a person’s life, including their job, relationships, and ability to continue their day-to-day life. For others, alcoholism may be part of their normal routine to a point where they’re able to carry through their given responsibilities without too much going wrong. Neither scenario can last for long and both require intensive care.
If you’re concerned you may have an addiction to alcohol, ask yourself some questions. How much do you drink? How often? Do you drink only in the company of others or are you often drinking alone? If someone doesn’t finish their drinks, are you able to leave them on the table or must you drink them as well.
These are some of the questions you can begin asking yourself or paying attention to. You may not notice right away or someone show concern that your behavior has changed. Not every case of alcohol abuse leads to alcoholism, although it can become a slippery slope.
For example, young adults are susceptible to alcohol abuse habits like binge drinking. This can result in an alcohol overdose. It can also put you in added danger if you decide to drive after drinking. At first, drinking may seem harmless, especially within social gatherings. Alcoholism can be difficult to pinpoint, especially if you have friends who don’t experience drinking alcohol in the same way as you do.
Why Do People Drink?
There are numerous reasons why people drink. Peer pressure is something that high school and college aged people face with temptation brought upon them by their friends. These types of habits typically subside after these phases of life has passed. Drinking is also a way to destress and relax, which can lead to dependency, if you don’t find other ways to unwind.
People also drink socially, which means a couple of glasses of beer once in awhile. If you know your limits and know that you can’t stop at just two, then it could be sign of a bigger problem. But other reasons why people drink can be more serious. People may drink to hide or numb pain. It may be used as a coping mechanism to help them through a particularly rough patch in their life. Alcoholism can also be genetic.
Drinking can make you feel and act in ways you wouldn’t without drinking, someone that’s more open or seemingly more confident. Alcohol lets us believe things that aren’t true and has us see things that aren’t real.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Relapse Prevention
Millions of people suffer from alcoholism every year. It can become the most demanding part of your life. It ruins relationships and put you and others in danger. Unfortunately, the intensity of delirium tremens symptoms often cause people to avoid seeking the help they need. If you have been suffering from alcohol for a long time, it may take a longer period of time to fully detox versus someone who has experienced the effects for as long.
Undergoing delirium tremens in the care of a rehab facility will help to prevent relapse. Addiction creates strong cravings, which are hard to battle on your own. Depending on your health, you may be able to take medicine that will help minimize the symptoms or make the least painful as possible.
Relapses can and do happen, but you can always begin again to reach sobriety and the health you deserve. If you continue with the next steps of alcohol addiction treatment, you are creating opportunities that will allow you to focus on your positive future and keep moving forward.
Inpatient Care and Outpatient Care
Are you ready to separate yourself from your current, unhealthy environment and sign up for an intensive rehab program? If so, then inpatient care may work best for you. It requires an overnight stay for 30 days or longer. This option gives people a chance to focus fully on their sobriety without the distractions or temptations of current, day-to-day life.
Inpatient care also provides continuous medical monitoring to ensure you are safe throughout the rehabilitation process. Since our bodies are unpredictable, there’s no way of knowing what will happen a few days following delirium tremens, let alone a few weeks or months.
You’ll also have the emotional support and accountability needed to get to the root of the problem. With both one-to-one counseling and group therapy sessions as part of the program, you can speak with confidence with people who have been in similar situations as you. You’ll start to identify common themes that may make the desire to drink more strong. Through rehab, you’ll learn how to deal with those cravings in a healthy way sans alcohol.
Going through any type of rehab program is not only about how you’re going to battle your alcohol addiction now, but what are you going to do say goodbye to it permanently? You’ll learn coping skills and other tools that will help you go to the right channels of support to get what you need to stay sober.
Conversely, many people choose outpatient care following their time spent in an inpatient stay. If you are unable to leave your current living situation for the 30 days needed for inpatient care or if you have other obligations you must fulfill, outpatient care may work better for you. This is dependent on how each program fits within your lifestyle, but primarily it has to do with what is best for your health. Each sober step you take into the future is another promise of self-care.
Building a Positive Future
Being actively part of a treatment program allows you to connect with other people who have been where you’ve been and experiencing similar thoughts and feelings as you do. Because of this, it can help you to not feel as alone during recovery. Everything you learn in treatment is valuable; you’ll want to carry it with you even after you leave. Eventually, you will return to normal life but with a whole different perspective. How will you use what you’ve learned?
Transitioning back into an environment that physically looks the same can be challenging if you emotionally feel differently. Continue your community of support following treatment. This includes you friends and family, but also being part of AA groups as well. Get into a routine of making purposeful decisions based on your newfound sobriety. Who or what is contributing to your health? Who or what is a negative influence? Identify who you want in your circle when you start your new life.
In rehab, you’ll learn about finding new activities to replace alcohol in your life. You’ll start to uncover what fulfills you and what keeps you busy in a productive way. There will be days where you’ll feel the temptation again, but if you have a strong support system in place, they can help you make it through and keep you focused. We are here when you’re ready to seek treatment. Your health and your life matters. We want to help you gain them back.Find hope. Find recovery. Begin a commitment to lifelong recovery today – for yourself, your friend, or for your loved one.
Medline Plus. Delirium Tremens. Revised Aug. 2018, Accessed March 25, 2016.
WebMD. What Is Alcohol Withdrawal? Accessed March 25, 2016.
WebMD. Alcohol Detox and Rehab Programs: What to Know. Accessed March 26, 2016.