Munson Health
Delirium Tremens

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by Alan R




Symptoms usually begin 3-7 days after suddenly stopping or decreasing alcohol intake. Symptoms may include:
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Delirium—changing levels of alertness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Bad dreams
  • Severe agitation
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations—the perception of a thing, voice, or person that is not present, both visual and auditory
  • Delusions—a false belief that is strongly held
  • Tremors of the hands, head, or body
  • Severe sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Seizures
In severe cases, DTs can result in death, especially if untreated.


Treatment can be difficult. Clearing of DTs may begin in 12-24 hours, but may take up to 2-10 days. Treatment for alcohol abuse is necessary after DTs are under control.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:


Medications may include:
  • Sedatives
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Other antiseizure medication

Vitamins and Fluids

Severe, life-threatening vitamin deficiency or dehydration may accompany DTs. Treatment may include:


Treatment for alcohol abuse may be done in a hospital setting or while living at home. It may involve individual or group therapy. Many people seek support by participating in groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
If you are diagnosed as experiencing DTs, follow your doctor's instructions.
If you are diagnosed as experiencing DTs, follow your doctor's instructions.


Alcoholics Anonymous

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism



Alcoholics Anonymous

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse



Alcohol withdrawal. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 4, 2013. Accessed July 11, 2013.

Barrons R, Roberts N. The role of carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine in alcohol withdrawal syndrome. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2010;35(2):153-167.

Bayard M, McIntyre J, et al. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(6):1443-1450.

McKeon A, Frye MA, et al. The alcohol withdrawal syndrome. J Neurol Neurosurg Psych. 2008;79:854-862.


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