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delirium tremens

delirium tremens (trēˈmənz, trĕmˈənz) [key], hallucinatory episodes that may occur during withdrawal from chronic alcoholism, popularly known as the DTs. An episode of delirium tremens is usually preceded by disturbed sleep and irritability, and generally takes several days to develop. The patient may experience sweating and increases in heart rate and body temperature, as well as hallucinations, tremors, and convulsions. In severe cases, delirium tremens may lead to hypothermia, cardiovascular collapse, and death. Delirium tremens can be treated, and even prevented, by the injection of fairly large doses of glucose, thiamine (vitamin B1), and insulin, and the continued administration of fluids (sodium chloride and sodium lactate) and the B vitamins. The condition is related to the abrupt drop in blood alcohol level after drinking ceases. Tranquilizers, sedatives, and anticonvulsants are also used in treatment.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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