A lot of people get confused between uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal delirium, which is also known as delirium tremens or D.T.s. The following description of alcohol withdrawal is taken from the DRINKING section of Ask DrSteve: The Real Story About Smoking, Drinking & Getting High.
People who drink a lot on a daily basis may experience alcohol withdrawal if they abruptly cut back on how much they're
drinking or if they attmpt to stop drinking altogether. In its mildest form alcohol withdrawal can be thought of as the "shakes."
Beginning 6-12 hours after his or her last drink, the withdrawing alcoholic begins to feel shaky and nervous. Other signs of
withdrawal include getting hot, sweaty and flushed, and developing nausea with or without vomiting. When people experiencing
so-called "simple withdrawal" are examined, they have a rapid heart beat (sometimes 100 beats per minute or more), elevated
blood pressure, and may run a temperature. They look and feel pretty sick; like someone with the flu who is real nervous.
Lots of people, including some unsophisticated healthcare professionals, confuse alcohol withdrawal with "alcohol withdrawal
delirium" which is also known as "delirium tremens" or the "D.T.s." Withdrawal delirium is an exaggerated form of "simple
withdrawal" in which the person withdrawing gets confused and disoriented in addition to being much more physically sick.
They may or may not hallucinate (that is, hea, see or feel things that are not really there). Alcohol withdrawal delirium is a
potentially life-threatening medical emergency. Anyone who has a history of withdrawal delirium or who has been drinking long
enough or heavily enough that developing this severe and life-threatening form of withdrawal is a possibility, needs to be
evaluated face-to-face by a qualified and experienced medical professional.
Another life-threatening complication of alcohol withdrawal is the possiblity of a seizure. Any withdrawing alcoholic is at risk for
having a withdrawal seizure, although people who have previously had a seizure (due to alcohol withdrawal or for any other
reason) or who have a history of head injury are at particularly high risk. Any heavy daily drinker who cuts down drastically or
stops drinking abruptly is at some risk for having a seizure. Because of these life-threatening complications of alcohol
withdrawal, medical assessment and the use of appropriate medication for detoxification is a necessary part of any plan to stop
I hope that this information is helpful. Simple, mild, uncomplicated withdrawal will usually resolve within 3-6 days, but because of the serious potential complications of alcohol withdrawal, which sometimes emerge with very little warning, it is always important for anyone with alcohol dependence to undergo detoxification in the context of medical evaluation, ongoing monitoring, and appropriate treatment.
This information is provided for general medical education purposes only. Please consult a physician for diagnostic and treatment options pertaining to a specific medical condition.
Keyword: alcohol withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal delirium, delirium tremens, D.T.s, alcoholism
Ask DrSteve: The Real Story About Smoking, Drinking & Getting High
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