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Delirium tremens

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Delerium tremens is a medical emergency. It is an acute confusional state associated with tremor and autonomic dysfunction.

The essential feature, as defined by DSM-IIIR, is that it develops within one week following the cessation of heavy ingestion of alcohol or a reduction in the amount of alcohol ingested.

Treatment for delirium tremens or seizures

  • offer oral lorazepam as first-line treatment for delirium tremens. If symptoms persist or oral medication is declined, give parenteral lorazepam, haloperidol or olanzapine
  • for people with alcohol withdrawal seizures, consider offering a quick-acting benzodiazepine (such as lorazepam) to reduce the likelihood of further seizures
  • if delirium tremens or seizures develop in a person during treatment for alcohol withdrawal, review their withdrawal drug treatment
  • do not offer phenytoin to treat alcohol withdrawal seizures

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The content herein is provided for informational purposes and does not replace the need to apply professional clinical judgement when diagnosing or treating any medical condition. A licensed medical practitioner should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.

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