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January 15, 2015 Marissa ObrienAlcoholism0

Withdrawing from alcohol is not only excruciatingly painful, but it can be highly lethal. One of the most dangerous and distressing symptoms of withdrawal from chronic alcohol abuse is delirium tremens. Delirium tremens (Latin for ‘shaking frenzy’) involves a sudden and severe change in one’s nervous system and mental system, and typically affects those who stop drinking suddenly after a period of 10 or more years. Delirium tremens can also be caused by a head injury, severe illness, or infection in people who are afflicted with long-term chronic alcoholism. There are several differences between alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the DTs – both sets of symptoms are listed below.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Heart palpitations

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

  • Body tremors
  • Changes in mental function
  • Agitation, irritability
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Decreased attention span
  • Deep sleep that lasts up to several days
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Sensitivity to light, touch and sound
  • Stupor, sleepiness, fatigue

Delirium tremens is the most serious form of ethanol withdrawal, and can ultimately (and quickly) lead to total cardiovascular collapse. Because DT has such an exceedingly high mortality rate, any symptoms require immediate medical attention. Several neurotransmitters within the brain are directly affected by chronic alcohol consumption. During alcohol withdrawal, the loss of GABA-A receptor stimulation causes a reduction in chloride flux and in turn is likely to produce or contribute to tremors, anxiety, seizures, tachycardia (increased heart rate), and diaphoresis (profusely sweating).

In the United States, less than 50% of alcoholics experience serious withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing use. Out of those who do, only around 5% will undergo symptoms of delirium tremens. Before pharmacotherapy was available, a staggering 35% of DT sufferers experienced mortality. Currently, the death rates range between 5 and 15%. In the majority of cases, the DTs are treated with benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals, as well as antipsychotics if necessary. Because the symptoms of delirium tremens can be so severe and life-threatening, if you or someone you love has been exhibiting signs of alcohol withdrawal or has decided to cease use, it is important that he or she check him or herself into a professional, medically monitored detoxification center immediately.



According to the dictionary, detox is “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances” – which is essentially the purpose of medical detoxification from drugs or alcohol. In most instances, the addict or alcoholic has been engaging in drug use for a prolonged period of time, and has decided that he or she is ready to fully commit to recovery – to learning how to live a sober life free of drugs and alcohol. The first step into recovery is ridding one’s body of the chemicals it has been cluttered with over the years.

Can’t I Detox Myself?

It is very important that the addict does not attempt detoxification alone for several reasons. First of all, when an addict or alcoholic is attempting to withdraw from drugs or alcohol, it is not uncommon for the side effects to cause so much physical discomfort that one will begin using again before they are fully detoxed simply to diminish symptoms. Additionally, detoxing from prolonged drug use can be severely injurious in many instances – and sometimes lethal. Detoxing from extended daily alcohol use tends to be deadly if not carefully monitored. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include tremors, anxiety, increased heart rate, irritability, confusion, headache, and sweating. Severe withdrawal symptoms are referred to as delirium tremens, and include severe confusion and agitation, fever, seizures, and hallucinations (tactile, auditory, and visual).

Because symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are usually treated with sedatives, it is important that the process is observed and a professional distributes the medication. It is important that detoxing from drugs is supervised professionally for very similar reasons. In serious cases, detoxing from certain drugs can also cause severe symptoms such as seizures, though drug detox is usually limited to insomnia, depression, tremors, nausea and vomiting, headache, and other less lethal symptoms. Many detoxifications from prolonged drug use require prescription medication in order to wean off the illicit substance used, and because even maintenance drugs can be abused it is important a medical expert distributes them.

Drug and Alcohol Detox – What Should I Expect?

When admitting yourself to a drug or alcohol detox clinic, you can expect that the staff will make the experience as comfortable as possible for you, and that the groups that are frequently held in such clinics will introduce you to the atmosphere of a rehab center. It is important to remember, however, that drug detox in itself is not treatment, and without attending inpatient directly afterwards the likelihood of relapse skyrockets.


The Hope Center

The Hope Center for Rehabilitation offers a full range of services both leading up to, during and following treatment, including professional interventions, a luxury, medically assisted detox program, inpatient rehabilitation (30-90 days), intensive out-patient rehabilitation and out-patient services. Each of our clients become a part of our alumni program at the completion of their treatment to help foster a continued community of recovery.

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