Delirium tremens is a serious medical condition, most often associated with severe alcohol withdrawal. It is characterised by acute confusion, delirium, tremors, hallucinations (visual, auditory or tactile), severe agitation, sweating and, in some cases, convulsions. This condition usually occurs in people who have a history of long-term alcohol consumption and are trying to stop or cut down abruptly.


Symptoms of delirium tremens may begin 48 to 96 hours after the last alcohol ingestion and include:

  • Severe confusion and inability to maintain coherent thinking.
  • Visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations.
  • Tremors, especially in the hands.
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Agitation or irritability.
  • Sleep disorders, including insomnia.
  • Changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Fever.

Causes and risk factors

Delirium tremens is often triggered by the sudden cessation of alcohol consumption in addicts. Risk factors include a long history of heavy drinking, previous severe alcohol withdrawals, poor general health and the presence of other medical conditions.


The diagnosis of delirium tremens is mainly clinical, based on the patient's medical history and presenting symptoms. Blood tests may be used to rule out other causes of symptoms and to assess general health.


Delirium tremens is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment in a hospital setting. Treatment includes:

  • Administer intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and restore electrolyte balance.
  • Use of sedatives, especially benzodiazepines, to control agitation and prevent seizures.
  • Medications to treat specific symptoms and life support if needed.
  • Close monitoring of vital functions and mental status.


Preventing delirium tremens involves careful management of alcohol withdrawal, preferably under medical supervision, for alcohol-dependent people. Gradually reducing consumption and using medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms can reduce the risk of delirium tremens.


Delirium tremens is a serious and potentially fatal condition that requires urgent medical intervention. Early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment are essential for recovery. Comprehensive approaches to alcohol dependence, including addiction treatment and ongoing support, are crucial for preventing relapse of delirium tremens and promoting long-term health.