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Delirium is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal frequently experienced by those recovering from severe alcohol dependence. Delirium in alcohol withdrawal is often accompanied by other life-threatening symptoms, including extremely high body temperature and seizures.

Alcohol-related delirium can be safely and effectively treated with alcohol detox at an addiction treatment center. Continue reading to learn more about delirium, its related symptoms, and how it can be treated at alcohol rehab.

What Is Delirium?

Delirium is a mental disturbance that causes severe confusion and reduced awareness of one’s surroundings. It occurs when brain signals become interrupted or impaired. Stroke, fever, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, and alcohol intoxication or withdrawal are some of the many factors that can cause it.

Delirium usually comes on suddenly within a few hours or days. Common symptoms of delirium include:

  • Reduced awareness of one’s environment, such as being withdrawn.
  • Cognitive problems such as poor memory and difficulty speaking.
  • Emotional changes such as paranoia, sudden mood changes, and anger.
  • Behavioral changes such as agitation and being unusually quiet.

Delirium should be treated right away to prevent complications, including worsened overall health, long-term hospitalization, and death. The staff at alcohol rehab centers are trained to address and safely treat delirium caused by alcohol intoxication and withdrawal.

What Is Delirium Tremens?

Delirium is a symptom of the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, known as delirium tremens. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), delirium tremens are most common in people who have been drinking heavy amounts of alcohol for more than 10 years. It may also affect those who have been drinking four to five pints of wine, seven to eight pints of beer, or one pint of spirits every day for several months.

The NLM reports that delirium tremens affect an estimated 3% to 5% of people who experience alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms can begin as early as 48 hours after the last drink and may last for up to five days. Without professional treatment at an alcohol rehab center, delirium tremens have an anticipated mortality rate of up to 37%, but with treatment, that rate can be reduced to less than 5%.

Symptoms include:

  • Delirium (sudden confusion)
  • Whole-body tremors
  • Rapid muscle tremors
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Excitement or fear
  • Heavy sweating
  • Irregular or rapid heart rate
  • Problems with eye muscle movement
  • Long periods of deep sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in mental function
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Hallucinations
  • Bursts of energy
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, and touch
  • Seizures, including grand-mal seizures

What Are Treatments For Delirium Tremens?

Delirium tremens is considered a medical emergency that usually requires a hospital stay of undetermined length. It can also be treated at a residential or inpatient alcohol detox or rehab center.

The goal of treatment for delirium tremens is to reduce symptoms, prevent complications, and save your life. Benzodiazepines are the primary treatment. These drugs are central nervous system depressants that produce sedative effects similar to those produced by alcohol. Benzodiazepines can help you feel more comfortable and relaxed and also reduce your risk for seizures as you go through withdrawal.

According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology, long-acting benzodiazepines such as diazepam, lorazepam, and chlordiazepoxide are the most effective and successful at treating delirium tremens due to their ability to continuously relieve withdrawal symptoms. Doctors will adjust your dosages of these medications as needed to control your symptoms. After acute symptoms of delirium tremens have been resolved, your doctor will work with you to gradually taper you off your medications until you have recovered completely from withdrawal.

If you or a loved one has been drinking heavily for a long period and needs treatment for alcohol dependence and withdrawal, contact an addiction recovery center in your area. An alcohol detox or rehab center like America’s Rehab Campuses can help you or your loved one stay safe and reduce any potential risks related to withdrawal or delirium tremens.