Delirium tremens (DTs) is a form of withdrawal from alcohol and is often severe if left untreated. If someone who heavily depends on alcohol stops drinking suddenly, they may experience DTs symptoms for 2 to 3 days. The symptoms affect the person for a few days, but they may also last a week sometimes.

Not everyone ending heavy alcohol dependency experiences delirium tremens symptoms; only about 5% of people withdrawing from ethanol experience DT symptoms. However small the number might be, people experiencing delirium tremens need treatment since the symptoms pose severe consequences.

What are the Symptoms of Delirium Tremens?

Delirium tremens is a severe condition resulting from sudden withdrawal from frequent and heavy alcohol usage. It is severe as it can cause heart attack and death. Delirium tremens is only one of the potentially life-threatening symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

A person may be suffering from delirium tremens if they are experiencing the following symptoms:

• Anger

• Anxiety

• Chest pain

• Confusion

• Deep sleep

• Dehydration

• Fatigue

• Fever

• Hallucination

• High blood pressure

• Mood swings

• Pale skin

• Seizures

• Vomiting

Usually, these symptoms may begin after 3 – 7 days of abandoning a drinking binge. But the symptoms may also take longer than this to appear. 

What Causes Delirium Tremens?

Delirium tremens symptoms may also result from other causes. That means alcohol withdrawal delirium doesn’t only affect someone with a heavy alcohol-drinking past. 

Some common causes of delirium tremens symptoms include:

• Stopping drinking abruptly

• Reducing the alcohol dosage too quickly

• Eating insufficient food while reducing alcohol intake significantly

• Suffering a head injury

• Infection

When drinking a large quantity of alcohol regularly, the body develops a dependency on alcohol over time. A person’s brain and central nervous system depend on alcohol more than any body part. Usually, alcohol impairs some special chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. 

As a result, the person will feel relaxed after drinking alcohol. But the neurotransmitters in the brain will overwork to restore the brain’s normal functioning when drinking alcohol. When someone stops heavy drinking abruptly, the brain no longer works under suppression.

As a result, their brain goes into an overexcited state, and that’s the beginning of developing delirium tremens symptoms. 

Why Delirium Tremens is Dangerous When Quitting Alcohol

Delirium tremens symptoms have detrimental effects on the body. People want to consult medical professionals as soon as they experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some symptoms are less severe, but they still need medication to handle.

Delirium tremens symptoms are dangerous because they affect a person’s body in the following ways:


When someone suddenly stops drinking alcohol, they may develop seizures within 48 hours. However, seizures might delay by 5 to 20 days. So, the timeline might differ from one person to another.

The percentage of people who will experience seizures within two days stands at 90%. But less than 3% of alcoholics will experience delayed seizures.

When experiencing this symptom, the person will have generalized convulsions such as tonic, myoclonic, and atonic seizures. Also, the body will experience spasmodic muscular contractions. But the person will most likely experience tonic-clonic seizures.

Seizures trigger a phenomenon called the “kindling” mechanism in the brain. The kindling mechanism causes weak electrical stimulus in your brain to trigger seizures. When someone experiences more seizures, they might not execute daily tasks efficiently, affecting their quality of life.


A person may also develop depression after withdrawing from alcohol usage. The danger is that people who develop this alcohol withdrawal syndrome risk committing suicide. The risk is even more prevalent if the withdrawal is after taking increased alcohol quantities.

Cardiovascular Complications

Alcohol withdrawal has detrimental effects on the heart. First, it complicates a person’s metabolism, which can eventually cause the heart to stop suddenly. Additionally, alcohol withdrawal delirium can drop a person’s electrolyte levels.

Consequently, heart problems may arise, causing arrhythmias. The heart muscles may suffer dire consequences from alcohol withdrawal. During alcohol withdrawal, the heart will not pump blood efficiently, causing blood circulation complications.

Nervous System Hyperactivity

Drinking more alcohol causes an increase in the GABA levels in a person’s brain. The result of increased GABA levels is the intoxication effect and a relaxed feeling. GABA receptors regulate the brain’s normal function as they render the central nervous system less sensitive to signaling. 

But alcohol withdrawal reduces GABA levels in a person’s brain. Consequently, the nerve cells become very sensitive to signaling, causing hyperactivity. 

Sleep Disturbance

A person with delirium tremens may also experience sleep disturbances such as frequent insomnia and night terrors. Additionally, a person may have interrupted breathing which affects sleep quality.

Consequently, sleep disturbances may cause drowsiness, reducing the efficiency of daily tasks. Reduced performance efficiency increases the risk of getting into a car crash. The remedy to this problem is administering a medication that helps people sleep better at night.

Treatment Options for Delirium Tremens

A person with delirium tremens can make it to a hospital on time for treatment. There are different medications New Method Wellness will use to stabilize a patient.

Here are some of the medications that we may use to stabilize a person struggling with delirium tremens: 


If delirium tremens causes severe nervous system hyperactivity, we will administer this medication to calm patients down. This medication increases a person’s GABA levels to restore their brain’s normal functioning. 

Some medications classified as Benzodiazepines include alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, and diazepam. These medications will slow people’s nervous system down to alleviate symptoms of delirium tremens.

Levetiracetam (Keppra)

If delirium tremens causes seizures, Keppra, an anti-seizure medication, will help alleviate symptoms. This medication counteracts convulsion and epilepsy.

Antipsychotic Drugs

If withdrawal from alcohol causes a patient to hallucinate, Haloperidol, a typical antipsychotic drug, becomes the medication of choice. While administering this medication, patients will spend time in well-lit rooms to reduce hallucination episodes.


A person’s body may have insufficient vitamin levels when they drink alcohol frequently. As a result, vitamins will have to be administered to restore vitamins to acceptable levels.

You Don’t Have To Go Through It Alone

Delirium tremens is treatable if you seek medical attention on time. Treatment usually involves detoxification and medication. During the detox process, medical assistance will be available to ensure a person’s health and safety. Therefore, get medical attention if you’re suffering from delirium tremens.

There are many treatment facilities that can help someone struggling with alcohol use disorder or delirium tremens. If someone you know suffers the delirium tremens symptoms, New Method Wellness will help them get back on their feet. 

Reach out to us to learn more about our services and how we can support your recovery.