The term DT’s stands for delirium tremens and most often references alcohol withdrawal symptoms that are severe and life-threatening. The word delirium means to be out of touch with reality, and delirium is a serious mental disorder characterized by confused thinking and lessened awareness of their surroundings. Tremens refer to tremors and shaking. Delirium tremens is a medical condition that requires medications and monitoring by a medical doctor. The phrase DT’s can also be applied to other drug effects and withdrawals that cause hallucinations and tremors.
Delirium tremens was first recognized as a disorder attributed to excessive alcohol abuse in 1813. It has an anticipated mortality rate of up to 37% without appropriate treatment. (NIH)
What Causes DTs?
DT’s mainly occur following the cessation of long-term alcohol consumption. Delirium tremens are caused by a brain chemistry imbalance, where neurotransmitters over fire epinephrine and other brain chemicals that prompt anxiety, sensitivity to light and sound, and cause delirium. It can also develop if a person quits drinking while not eating enough. When there are too few nutrients in the body, it essentially starves the brain and causes DTs. The brain changes during delirium tremens can cause dangerous disruptions in circulation, breathing, and temperature regulation. Additionally, a severe head injury or infection can also cause delirium tremens.
Description of Delirium Tremens
Delirium tremens usually occur shortly after the drug or alcohol wears off. Even though the severity of DTs can change over time, it is often more severe at night when less activity in a person’s environment can keep them oriented. Delirium tremens will make a person’s body temperature, breathing, and blood pressure go up and fluctuate. The most severe complications from delirium tremens include irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, seizures, or the loss of minerals that control your body’s functions and lead to sepsis. Delirium tremens require immediate hospitalization. If you or a loved one exhibits symptoms, contact 911 immediately.
What Substances Cause DTs?
Many psychoactive substances can produce delirium tremens. It is essential to understand that not all drugs cause DTs. From the list below, alcohol is still by far the most dangerous type of delirium tremens. Among the substances known to cause delirium tremens are:
- Anti-anxiety medications
How Do Medical Professionals Treat DTs?
Delirium tremens is treated in a hospital or medically supervised detox rehab centers. For alcohol DTs, opioid addiction, cocaine addictions, and other drugs, benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed. These drugs help a person rest and calm the response of the central nervous system. In addition, doctors will prescribe vitamins and minerals to be administered intravenously to treat dehydration or restore electrolytes. The National Institutes of Health document the types of medications commonly prescribed for DTs from alcohol.
Benzodiazepines are the mainstay of treatment for DT. Diazepam and lorazepam are preferred benzodiazepines, depending upon the treatment regime and clinical context. In benzodiazepine refractory cases, Phenobarbital, propofol, and dexmedetomidine could be used. (NIH)
DTs symptoms are also treated with the following drugs in hospitals:
- Antipsychotic drugs that help calm CNS and prevent hallucinations
- Anticonvulsants are used to stop seizures
- Medication for high blood pressure
- Heart-regulating drugs
- Medicine for pain
Medically Supervised Detox Cures Delirium Tremens
Since it may take up to a week for your health to stabilize once you have been admitted into a medically supervised detox for alcohol or drug addiction, it is most beneficial to remain at treatment and get your mind and emotions healthy. Evoke Wellness at Miramar provides evidence-based forms of treatment that help you get and stay clean and sober. Here at Evoke Wellness at Miramar, we offer comprehensive treatment plans that are personalized to each patient. That means all of our patients get one-on-one attention and expert addiction therapy and treatment. Call now for immediate placement into a medically supervised detox and chat or email for more information.