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Addressing Delirium Tremens

April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

Alcohol dependence causes physical health issues the same as any other drug addiction.  When too much alcohol is introduced to the human body, it is considered a poison as it is slowly damaging vital organs.  And when the alcohol dependent body is denied alcohol, withdrawal symptoms result.  These symptoms are in the form of a hangover at best, and Delirium Tremens (DTs) at their absolute worst.

Delirium Tremens (DTs)

The onset of DTs is rapid and can be fatal if not treated properly.  This is very important information for those who know an alcoholic or a binge drinker.  Since loved ones may be on the lookout for manipulation and deceit, DTs can be misunderstood and the results could be tragic.  The information on this page is in part from the Medline Plus website, and can save a life.

A person does not need to be alcoholic to suffer DTs.  Although uncommon, they can occur in binge drinkers.

Delirium tremens can occur after a period of heavy alcohol drinking, especially when the person does not eat enough food.  It is especially common in those who drink the equivalent of 7 - 8 pints of beer (or 1 pint of "hard" alcohol) every day for several months.  Delirium tremens also commonly affects those who have had a history of habitual alcohol use or alcoholism for more than 10 years.

Keep in mind that DTs are a medical emergency.  Alcohol dependence is a serious disease that affects both the mind and the body.  While a friend with a hangover may be a laughing matter, DTs are no joke.  Contact emergency medical assistance immediately if someone is suffering from DTs.

Symptoms most commonly occur within 72 hours after the last drink. However, they may occur up to 7 - 10 days after the last drink. Symptoms may get worse rapidly.

The symptoms that accompany DTs are listed below:  

    * Body tremors
    * Mental status changes
          o Agitation, irritability
          o Confusion, disorientation
          o Decreased attention span
          o Decreased mental status
                + Deep sleep that persists for a day or longer
                + Stupor, sleepiness, lethargy
                + Usually occurs after acute symptoms
          o Delirium (severe, acute loss of mental functions)
          o Excitement
          o Fear
          o Hallucinations (visual hallucinations such as seeing things that are not present are most common)
          o Highly sensitive to light, sound, touch (sensory hyperacuity)
          o Increased activity
          o Mood changes rapidly
          o Restlessness, excitement
    * Seizures
          o Most common in first 24 - 48 hours after last alcohol consumption
          o Most common in people with previous complications from alcohol withdrawal
          o Usually generalized tonic-clonic seizures
    * Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
          o Anxiety
          o Depression
          o Difficulty thinking clearly
          o Fatigue
          o Feeling jumpy or nervous
          o Feeling shaky
          o Headache, general, pulsating
          o Insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep)
          o Irritability or easily excited
          o Loss of appetite
          o Nausea
          o Pale skin
          o Palpitations (sensation of feeling the heart beat)
          o Rapid emotional changes
          o Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face
          o Vomiting

Getting treatment for these symptoms is only the first step to recovery.  Alcohol detox is then needed to cleanse the body of its dependence.  Then treatment for alcoholism follows, most likely residential, to work towards long-term abstinence from alcohol.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  Portions of the article above were found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000766.htm among others of equal informational and educational quality.

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