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Do Hospitals Treat Delirium Tremens with Alcohol?

Delirium Tremens (DT) or Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium (AWD) is a severe and life-threatening form of Alcohol Withdrawal. Some symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, tremors, vomiting, diaphoresis, and more. But can some doctors actually prescribe alcohol to those experiencing this kind of withdrawal?

Yes, hospitals can and will prescribe alcohol to patients with severe alcohol withdrawal to prevent the occurrence of delirium tremens. Alcohol beverages like beer are still used to treat alcohol withdrawal. In surgical cases, IV alcohol can be prescribed too.

What is Delirium Tremens?

Delirium Tremens is also known as Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium. It is a severe type of alcohol withdrawal that may be fatal should it not be addressed promptly. If left untreated, it can cause a stroke, heart attack, or even death.

Delirium Tremens usually starts within three days of someone ending a long drinking binge. While it lasts for a couple of days, the symptoms may linger for as long as a week.

According to statistics, around 5% of people withdrawing from alcohol experience Delirium Tremens. (Source: Web MD)

What Causes Delirium Tremens?

Alcohol is known to be a depressant. It basically slows down the function of your brain and nervous system. When you stop drinking after a prolonged period of abusing alcohol, your brain and nervous system can’t catch up as fast. Your brain gets overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Alcoholics who have stopped drinking may also experience a spike in glutamate. This amino acid can cause symptoms like extremely high blood pressure, tremors, seizures, and even severe excitability.

Delirium Tremens is more common in young adult white men, people who have a history of seizures, those who have already experienced alcohol withdrawal, and heavy long-term drinkers.

When we talked about heavy drinking, it is different per gender since men and women have different metabolic rates. For women, consuming eight or more drinks per week is classified as heavy drinking. While it is 15 drinks per week for men. (Source: Web MD)

What Are the Symptoms for Delirium Tremens?

Symptoms for Delirium Tremens don’t appear immediately. They usually start 2 to 3 days after the last drink. But symptoms may start showing up until ten days after you’ve gone cold turkey.

Some of the symptoms include tremors, chest pain, confusion, deep sleep, dehydration, extreme emotions like excitability or anger, fever, hallucinations, high blood pressure, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, severe hyperactivity, problems with muscle movement, and passing out.

These symptoms could lead to complications like sepsis, heart problems, trouble breathing, seizures, and electrolyte imbalance. A person with Delirium Tremens needs immediate treatment, call your emergency provider or hospital as soon as possible. (Source: Web MD)

How is Delirium Tremens Treated?

The treatment of Delirium Tremens starts at the hospital when a physician diagnoses you. They will then provide you with Benzodiazepines. This is what is commonly given to any form of alcohol withdrawal to calm their nervous system. Fluids will be administered to rehydrate you and balance out your electrolytes.

Some hospitals had alcoholic beverages available for patient use for alcohol withdrawal. The surgical department commonly practices this form of treatment. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

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