What Is Delirium Tremens? Your Essential Alcohol Recovery Guide


What Is Delirium Tremens? Your Essential Alcohol Recovery Guide

Northstar Recovery Center

PHP and IOP Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts

Alcohol abuse is an American scourge. 20% of Americans abuse alcohol at some point in their life. 

One reason why this statistic is so high is that alcohol withdrawal can be extremely painful. More than 50% of people who abuse alcohol experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and 3% to 5% experience delirium tremens. 

Many people know of delirium tremens, but they don’t know much about it. Understanding what the condition is can make the difference between alcohol recovery and relapse. 

What is delirium tremens, and what are its symptoms?

Why does it occur in some people who abuse alcohol?

How can a person receive treatment for it and start the path to recovery? 


Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a condition that occurs during alcohol withdrawal. Most people who experience it were heavy drinkers or had abused alcohol for at least ten years. Heavy drinkers are women who consume more than eight drinks every week and men who drink more than 15.

Symptoms are progressive, occurring several days after someone’s last drink. A person may become confused, agitated, or irritable, sometimes for no apparent reason. They may have hallucinations, including auditory and visual ones. 

They may start to tremble and lose coordination of their body. They can also begin to sweat and become nauseous. 

Some people experience seizures, even without other symptoms of DTs. These seizures may occur just a few hours after the last drink, and they may occur in people with no history of seizures.

DTs can lead to significant complications. Someone’s body temperature and blood circulation can change quickly. They may develop sepsis or an irregular heartbeat, which can result in death.

Delirium tremens can occur alongside or independently from symptoms of alcohol addiction and withdrawal. Someone may experience fatigue and anxiety. They may suffer from mood swings, insomnia, and headaches.

Causes and Risk Factors

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the nervous system, slowing down the brain. This can cause someone to feel less anxious and more tired, which can encourage them to continue drinking. 

As time goes on, the brain becomes reliant on alcohol to produce pleasurable and sedative chemicals. When the brain is cut off from alcohol, it stops producing these chemicals.

It also becomes overstimulated as there is nothing to suppress its function anymore. When a person’s nervous system is overstimulated, it produces sweat, tremors, and the other symptoms present in DTs. 

DTs can occur to anyone. But it is most common amongst adult men and people who have gone through alcohol addiction treatment before. 

Treatment for Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens treatment is available to anyone, even for severe cases. The condition is a medical emergency, so someone who shows symptoms should go to the hospital.

A doctor can diagnose DTs based on the symptoms. But they can also run blood tests to see if there are problems with blood pressure or electrolytes. They may need to run a test on the brain to see if an individual’s brain is functioning properly.

Doctors will start alcohol detox by using benzodiazepines to calm their nervous system down. If they are having seizures, they can take anticonvulsants or antipsychotic drugs. They will also attach the person to an IV, preventing them from getting dehydrated.

Someone may need to stay in the hospital for several days. If they have complications, they will need to stay even longer. A person may also need treatment for other conditions associated with heavy drinking, such as alcoholic liver disease, which can lead to surgery.

Alcohol Abuse Recovery

Experiencing DTs can be traumatic and difficult. Many people return to drinking alcohol so they don’t have to go through DTs again. Yet there are ways to recover from alcohol without enduring significant problems. 

After going through a detox, a person can check themselves into a rehab center. For most people with DTs, an inpatient program works best. They receive full-time care and participate in several different therapies, including talk therapy. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular therapy among people who experienced DTs. People identify the thought patterns that encourage them to consume alcohol, even when they know alcohol harms them. They develop new ways of coping with stress and channeling their emotions into positive outlets, like making art. 

Someone can stay in an inpatient facility for several months. They can then transition to a partial hospitalization program (PHP), visiting a center for up to six hours a day, five days every week. A PHP in MA can involve group and individual therapy with a psychiatrist.

If someone needs to work, they can try an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An evening IOP in MA allows a person to attend group therapy sessions after working during the day.

A person who relapses can return to alcohol addiction treatment. Many people like to go to different programs so they can hear from new people about what to do. Going to another program also helps them avoid places where they used to drink.


The Essentials of Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens is no joke. It can create significant symptoms like seizures, irregular heartbeats, and hallucinations. It occurs after a brain is cut off from its supply of alcohol, causing a nervous system overreaction. 

Yet treatment is available to anyone who suffers from it. Someone needs to go through a slow and steady alcohol detox with the help of medical professionals. They should then start the alcohol abuse recovery process, attending therapies and inpatient programs. 

The path to recovery can begin right now. Northstar Recovery Center serves the Southborough area. Contact us today.


Northstar Recovery Center in Southborough, MA is made up of a team of experienced, dedicated, and compassionate addiction treatment professionals. We want to see our community heal from the effects of the opioid epidemic, alcohol addiction, and other substance use disorders.

Partial Hospitalization Program in MA

Our partial hospitalization program in Massachusetts is the highest level of care we offer. This addiction treatment option includes clinical care and behavioral therapies. During the early days of recovery from addiction, it’s essential to have support for both the physical and emotional challenges you might face. Our team at Northstar Recovery Center in Massachusetts will help you build a strong foundation for lifelong recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Typically, clients come to our addiction treatment center each weekday for several hours of counseling sessions and other interventions as needed.


Intensive Outpatient Program in MA

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) in MA does not require 24/7 residency at a facility, but it demands more of your time than a regular outpatient program. It is ideal for those who need a higher level of care but are okay with being at home. This way the individual can still live their life while getting counseling and support that is still needed in early recovery from substance use disorder.


Outpatient Program in MA

An outpatient program (OP) in Southborough, MA, and Springfield, MA, is one of the final steps in someone's recovery journey. During this time, an individual is allowed to act freely and to use more of their own judgment and skills they have acquired over the last few months. Implementing it into daily life.

Learn More About OP in MA

Individual, Group, and Family Counseling in Massachusetts

Addiction thrives in isolation, which is why group counseling sessions are a foundational part of our addiction treatment plans. In group sessions, you’ll gain perspective on your struggles with substance abuse and can connect with others who understand your experiences. Family counseling can help your loved ones understand the disease of addiction, navigate conflict and build healthier relationships. In individual counseling sessions, you’ll be able to work through personal issues like past trauma with the help of an experienced therapist.

Learn More About Addiction Counseling in Massachusetts

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