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How Do Detox Centers Treat Delirium Tremens?


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “The course of alcohol withdrawal is unpredictable; it is impossible to tell who will or will not experience life-threatening complications.” Therefore, the medical staff at a detox center must be prepared for patients to begin to show sudden signs of delirium tremens and to treat the issue safely and effectively.

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Monitoring Patients for Signs of Delirium Tremens

Patients in a detox center who have been abusing alcohol for more than 10 years or who have experienced this severe form of alcohol withdrawal before must be monitored by the medical staff for any signs of delirium tremens. However, it can also occur in anyone going through alcohol withdrawal without warning. Medical staff must look for:

Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens is dangerous and requires medical attention.

  • Rapid muscle tremors
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Problems with eye muscle movement
  • Heavy sweating
  • Increased startle reflex
  • Irregular heart beat

If these signs begin to occur in the individual, certain tests may be done to confirm the severity of the reaction, but action must be taken as quickly as possible.

Treatment Goals and Procedures

According to the National Library of Medicine, the main goals of treatment are to “save the person’s life, relieve symptoms, and prevent complications.” This can be done by giving the individual intravenous medication, usually sedatives, that keep them calm until the symptoms have subsided and checking their vital signs regularly. Seizures, anxiety, and tremors should also be treated.

The medical professionals at the center will mostly be occupied with keeping the individual calm and alive. They may even keep the person sedated for the duration of the syndrome. This is often the safest way for an individual to weather delirium tremens.

Can Delirium Tremens Be Treated Without Medication?

“Indications for the management of alcohol withdrawal without medication have not been established through scientific studies or evidence-based methods” (SAMHSA). In some cases, individuals going through mild alcohol withdrawal may be able to do so safely without pharmaceutical intervention, but those going through delirium tremens need to be stabilized on medication.

The syndrome itself is dangerous and causes seizures, hallucinations, anxiety, stupor, and delirium. Most individuals can severely hurt themselves while affected in this way, and the use of medication allows them to be safely sedated through the process.

What Happens After the Patient is Stabilized?

The medical staff continues to monitor the individual until they are stable enough to come out of sedation and begin their recovery. At this point, they will likely need to consider the need for alcoholism treatment, as most individuals who experience this issue are seriously in need of professional rehab. This usually involves both medications and behavioral therapy, and many individuals are able to find programs that are extremely beneficial to their needs and allow them to make a very positive change to their lives.

Detox Treatment for Delirium Tremens

It is absolutely necessary that any individual going through alcohol withdrawal, whether they have begun to experience signs of delirium tremens or not, check into a detox clinic, rehab facility, or hospital in order to ensure their safety if their condition suddenly worsens. To find out more about alcohol detox or to find a clinic in your area, call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) .

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