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Risks of Home Detox: Alcohol and Delirium TremensDepending on how much you have been drinking, and for how long, a home detox can be extremely risky. Medical complications range from dehydration, to seizures or delirium tremens (DT) – and these complications can be fatal. So what is delirium tremens? Delirium tremens is essentially a state of delirium that is a complication of alcohol withdrawal.

According to Medline Plus, DTs are more likely to occur in people with a past history of difficult alcohol withdrawals, and who have been drinking for more than 10 years. The symptoms of delirium tremens often include changes in mental status like confusion and disorientation. It also often includes very sudden changes in mood, bursts of energy or lethargy, and even hallucinations. These symptoms are also accompanied by usual alcohol withdrawal symptoms like tremors, agitation, anxiety, irritability, gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, loss of appetite, high pulse and blood pressure, headache, sweating, and mood changes. Treatment for DTs can be life-saving.

These symptoms can begin up to 10 days after someone has either had their last drink, or significantly cut down on their drinking. They are most likely to happen, however, within the first 96 hours.  A medically prescribed taper of detox medications can help to prevent complications like DTs, allowing the body to adjust slowly to changing chemicals in the brain. If one is at risk for delirium tremens it is much safer to do this at a residential or inpatient detox facility, where there is 24-hour nursing on site to attend to any issues present.

This allows an appropriate detox taper to be prescribed, and to be adjusted by professionals if needed. When it comes down to it, a quality, licensed facility that provides detox services prevents any risk to one’s health or even to their life.

Kirsten Helgager, PsyD
Psychologist
AToN Center 888-535-1516