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What Does DTs Mean? The Signs and Effects of Delirium Tremens

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, the rate of alcohol use disorder rose by 49% in the first decade of the 2000s. Today, one in eight American adults (12.7% of the country) meets the criteria for alcohol use disorder.

Despite this increase, many people are also trying to undergo rehabilitation.

After long-term heavy alcohol use, however, a person might experience delirium tremens, or DTs. This occurs as a result of severe alcohol withdrawal.

What does DTs mean, and what are the signs of alcohol tremors?

Keep reading to find out!

What is DTs?

First, let’s answer the question, “What does DTs mean?”

DTS, or delirium tremens, occur when someone stops drinking alcohol after an extended period of heavy drinking. The chances of DTs increase if the person hasn’t eaten recently as well.

In some cases, DTs also occur as a result of a head injury, infection, or illness in patients with a history of heavy alcohol use. However, it’s more common in people with a history of alcohol withdrawal. DTs are also common for people who have used alcohol for more than 10 years.

Alcohol is a depressant. In other words, alcoholic substances slow down the body’s central nervous system. Chronic alcohol use can change how the brain works, including how the brain’s natural messengers function.

When someone suddenly stops drinking, the brain tries to return to how it previously functioned. This causes the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.

How to Spot The Signs

Now that we’ve determined “what does DTs mean?” let’s discuss some of the common signs and symptoms.

Experiencing DTs is different for each person. The symptoms often depend based on the duration and frequency of their drinking.

Quitting alcohol cold turkey can cause a once-heavy drinker to experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. However, these symptoms often occur after a person decides to quit drinking after a period of heavy drinking or binging. While some people decide to undergo the process in their own homes, some people prefer to deal with alcohol withdrawal and detoxification at a medical facility.

rehabilitation center can help you through the symptoms of DTs. They can also ensure you experience complete detoxification.

DTs don’t usually begin immediately after you quit drinking. Instead, you might experience a few mild withdrawal symptoms first, before they escalate.

Early Withdrawal Symptoms

Early alcohol withdrawal symptoms often emerge during the first eight to 12 hours after your last drink. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Clammy skin
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Vomiting

These early-stage symptoms usually last for one to three days. However, they might last longer, depending on the severity of your drinking.

Later Withdrawal Symptoms

Over time, your alcohol withdrawal symptoms might begin to escalate. These more severe symptoms include:

  • Blood pressure changes
  • Breathing issues
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

It’s important to understand what does DTs mean so you can prepare yourself for these symptoms. More severe DTs symptoms often occur between 12 and 24 hours after you stop drinking. You might experience these symptoms in addition to the early withdrawal symptoms mentioned above.

Delirium Tremens Symptoms

The final stage of alcohol withdrawal occurs between 48 and 96 hours after your last drink. During that time, many people experience DTs, meaning more severe symptoms. However, these symptoms might not emerge until 7 to 10 days after you quit drinking.

These symptoms include:

  • Deep sleep
  • Delirium
  • Disorientation
  • Fatigue
  • Fear or excitement
  • Heart rate changes
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Sensitivity to light, source, and touch
  • Tremors

You might begin to feel agitated during this process. A sense of impending doom and panic are common symptoms as well.

Understanding what does DTs mean can help you prepare for possibly fatal symptoms. This includes changes in your heart rate or breathing. With this in mind, it’s often best to undergo your detox under someone else’s care.

That way, they can call medical services as an immediate response to these symptoms.

Usually, DTs symptoms resolve after a few days. However, these symptoms are serious and usually require a medical expert’s attention. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately.


About 7.9% of adults who had alcohol use disorder in the past year received treatment. By undergoing your detox at a rehabilitation center, you can receive treatment under the eye of a medical professional. That way, someone is there to help if you experience DTs.

If you decide to detox at home, it’s important to note that DTs require hospitalization.

At the hospital, doctors will need to conduct a series of tests. These include:

  • Blood magnesium levels
  • Blood phosphate levels
  • Electrocardiograms (ECGs)
  • Metabolic panels
  • Toxicology screens

The doctor’s first priority will be to save your life. They’ll also want to prevent complications and minimize your symptoms.

One of the common treatments for DTs is benzodiazepines, which reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Other medications might include chlordiazepoxide and lorazepam. Both medications can help relieve the anxiety that’s often connected with alcohol withdrawal.

Heavy alcohol use can cause nutritional deficiencies as well. With this in mind, many doctors recommend vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Thiamine
  • Zinc

This combined treatment might save your life.

The Fatal Effects of DTs

Can you die from withdrawal? Yes. Patients with DTs can die as a result of cardiac arrhythmias and respiratory failure.

Instead of risking these fatal effects, inform your doctor if you plan to stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal is dangerous on your own. Instead, undergo the process under a medical professional’s supervision.

That way, you can receive medical attention and help as soon as you need it.

It’s impossible to know how severe your withdrawal symptoms will become. If you’re a heavy drinker and intend on quitting, let your doctor know. Otherwise, sign up for treatment at a professional rehabilitation center.

What Does DTs Mean: The Signs & Treatments of Delirium Tremens

Understanding what does Dts mean and the severity of the symptoms could save your life. Don’t undergo detoxification alone.

Instead, seek professional help. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation. Seeking help could save your life.

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