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Sunnybunny's avatar

How long does DT from alcohol withdrawal last?

Asked by Sunnybunny (469 points ) January 23rd, 2012

A relative is in the hospital for minor surgery after an accident but now has severe symptoms from alcohol withdrawal. He had to be restrained because he thought he was being held hostage and tried to call the police to get him out of the hospital. They started giving him a sedative and postponed the surgery but he is still very confused and belligerent and yelling at everyone. How long does it take for this to pass? I guess he didn’t tell anyone at the hospital about how much he typically drinks and his wife didn’t volunteer the information either so he was in the hospital for over 24 hours before this started and they began to sedate him.

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28 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think it’s around 48 hours but I’m not certain. Welcome to fluther and what a tough question to have to ask. Good luck.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Symptoms generally peak after 4–5 days but it will depend on how severe they are, how much alcohol they were drinking before hand and how quickly they respond to treatment.

EverRose11's avatar

Approximately 48 to 72 hours depending on he severity of his drinking habits. I use to work in a rehab, seriously everyone is so different.. but after 72 hours he should be coming around to his senses and begin to seriously understand where he is and why. My heart ooes out to you.and you famiy, I wish you well.

marinelife's avatar

Several days.

Sunnybunny's avatar

Thanks, we are worried but know he’s in good hands. I only hope this is a wake up call and maybe things will change in the future. It’s very sad to see someone you care about in this kind of a state and we have been told not to even visit for now. It’s harder on my husband but we are just taking one thing at time. Thanks for the answers, it’s good to know what to expect since we aren’t there to talk to the doctor.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Sunnybunny GA. I wanted to give you a GQ but I just couldn’t do it. Good luck again.

JLeslie's avatar

I would check to be sure the people caring for him are accustomed to dealing with chemical dependency. My neighbor’s daughter is a nurse and she said the difference between hospitals that regularly see people coming off of drugs and alcohol and how they treat compared to hospitals who don’t deal with it is very apparent.

Also, I believe part of the reason a friend of mines dad might have died is because the hospital did not maintain his alcohol addiction when he was hospitalized. He was sick with other ailments besides just the DT’s, but at one point he started seizing, and basically never stopped, and I think it was possibly from withdrawal.

I realize your relative is in for minor surgery, he is not nearly as sick as the people I describe above, my examples are only to point out hospitals handle these things differently. I hope since he has to go through the hell of drying out that he thinks about not drinking again.

zenvelo's avatar

It can last from 72 hours up to seven days, depending on how much and how long the drinking has been going on. Many treatment centers and detox centers use those times as s guideline- the worst cases are usually hospitalized.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s a good thing they discovered the addiction prior to whatever procedure they were going to perform. I’ve heard what can happen sometimes when the hospital staff places too much reliance upon the patient’s self-described “occasional use” of alcohol.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

It is very dangerous to deny a heavy drinker alcohol all of a sudden. You can die from that! My husband drank a lot, and when he had a cardiac arrest and was in the ICU, they had to give him some kind of drug intraveiniously to keep him from going through withdrawals. Your relative’s doctors must be idiots not to know that.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt the sedative they are giving the patient IS the drug you use to treat delirium tremens

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Lightlyseared Well, whatever it is, they need to be giving it to @Sunnybunny ‘s relative before they kill him, like they did @JLeslie ‘s acquaintance.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt they are giving him it. If you read the question “They started giving him a sedative and postponed the surgery…” What usually kills people with the DT’s is doctors thinking it’s something else and treating that instead.

Sunnybunny's avatar

Yes, the medications they are giving him are to treat the DT’s. It is a fact that he did not make his amount of drinking clear and the hospital staff had no way to know what could happen because he kept them in the dark. As family we are aware of the extent of his drinking but none of us knew he’d hidden it from the doctor. He pretty much drinks from lunch until he passes out in the evening, every single day. He’s been doing that for as long as I’ve known him which is over a decade.

This is my husband’s father and so while I can be a little detached from it my husband can’t and I don’t want to tell him the extent of what I’ve read online about DT’s. He is worried enough and even more now because the hospital said they had to put a tube down his dad’s throat and they transferred him to the ICU.

All this came from a pretty minor injury that would have been operated on today and he could have been home tomorrow. It is frustrating to know that if he’d been up front about his drinking or if his wife hadn’t been embarrassed to say something maybe the hospital could have planned for this and it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Oh, sorry. From the symptoms you were describing after they started administering the medicine, it sounded like he was still having the DT’s. I thought the medicine would fix him up immediately, since it is going directly in his veins.

When my husband was getting it, they didn’t say it was a sedative. They said it was giving him the same thing that he was getting from his beer (alcohol?) although they didn’t go into detail.

JLeslie's avatar

I had read the details. My point was to make sure it is the best drug for the withdrawal.

Judi's avatar

I’m sure the sedative they are giving him is probably ativan which is the medication they give to detox. I wouldn’t let yourself get fearful about what might happen. If he is in the hospital and they are smart enough to give him the ativan then he will be ready for his surgery in a few days. The question really is, what will he do after he gets out of the hospital?

Sunnybunny's avatar

Ativan is one of the sedatives they are giving him. Now the doctors think he has more going on that just DT. His blood pressure dropped dangerously low and his sodium levels are also extremely low. They put something through a vein in his neck to monitor his heart to make sure it didn’t stop from the low blood pressure. He still has a tube down his throat and they think he has some kind of infection. They’re doing every scan and test they can think of now to find out exactly what is going on. I’m sure DT is still an issue but the doctors are saying it doesn’t explain everything going on and they are looking for the source of his other problems. He’s at an excellent hospital, one of the best in the country.

All this started with a fall and a torn ligament!

Sunnybunny's avatar

Oh and yes we are all wondering what will happen when he gets out of the hospital. He probably won’t remember any of this and probably won’t be interested in staying sober. But only time will tell and maybe he’ll surprise us all.

JLeslie's avatar

@Sunnybunny All those symptoms sound alcohol withdrawal related, or related to the bensos they are treating him with to reduce the withdrawal symptoms, but most likelt the alcohol. Alcohol affects electrolytes (potassium/sodium) and the kidneys and blood pressure and heart rate. Many of those tests might be unnecessary. They do need to watch his electrolytes and kidney function, don’t get me wrong, but multiple scans sound over the top, and making the hospital a lot of money. Does the hospital have a chemical dependency unit in their psych wing? Those doctors would know what is typical and what is worth scanning. Now it has been days, so he is almost through it anyway. But, he is still going to want the alcohol even once he withdraws completely.

I guess he won’t be able to deny he is alcoholic, if he has been denying it.

zenvelo's avatar

@JLeslie He can still deny it, that’s one of the baffling things about alcoholic behavior. He’ll probably say that they gave him drugs that confused him, and then they wouldn’t let him be unstrapped.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo Certainly possible. That’s what I would probably do of I were an alcoholic. I tend to be very critical of the medical profession, some might say a little paranoid, but Iwould say realistic, as you see in my above posts and all over fluther.

@Sunnybunny How is he doing today? Is the worst over?

Sunnybunny's avatar

He improved a lot yesterday and is actually having the surgery today. He’s off all the meds that were helping regulate blood pressure and sodium.

Theres never been any denial of the alcoholism. That goes along with no desire to change. He’s not a bad guy, doesn’t drive drunk or become mean. It’s still not healthy but he’s not like some tv drama alcoholic. We’d all like for him to stop drinking but realistically it isn’t going to happen.

As for his problems not being DTs that’s just what my husband’s mom says the doctor said. We think she is reading more into it because that’s what she wants to hear. She would rather not think the drinking is so bad even though we all know it is. It is frustrating to try to figure out what the doctors really said from her version and also because he has a couple of different doctors at this point. The orthopedic guy will naturally focus on one thing while the medical ICU guy will focus on something else, you know?

For the funny side, in addition to calling family in the middle of the night and the police four times to say he was being held hostage, we found out yesterday he also called the FBI. I kind of wish I could hear that conversation.

JLeslie's avatar

@Sunnybunny That’s hysterical! Makes for a good family story. I’m glad to hear he is on the mend. I think you are right, a whole bunch of denial going on. Sounds like it won’t change any time soon. I wonder if the withdrawal was even necessary for the surgery? I don’t know enough about possible side effects from having some alcohol in your system during a surgery. Maybe bleeding is a greater risk? For some reason I am thinking alcohol increseases blood running times. The one major negative I can think of is liver function, as the drugs during surgery tax the liver, and alcohol does of course also.

Judi's avatar

My mil went through DT’s in the hospital after a fall. She was also in methadone for her “headaches.” She thought she was a professional basketball player named Wanda Johnson.
To this day she swears it was a sub dermal hematoma. She did bump her head but the neurologist said it was not bad enough to cause her delusions.

misstozak's avatar

I don’t have the answer but I have a similar question. I just brought my ex-boyfriend to be admitted into the hospital for a lung abscess – he has been very ill for over 5 weeks. He only admits to drinking 2 or 3 glasses of wine a day but I KNOW he is an alcoholic and has been drinking the hard stuff and getting REALLY drunk every day for years.

I’m afraid he will be suffering the DTs. I’m thinking the doctor should be aware of this and I am on the HIPAA forms to discuss patient with doctor. SHOULD I LET THE DOCTOR KNOW RIGHT AWAY???

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther, @misstozak.

The answer to your question is YES. If the doctor doesn’t already know that he’s a habitual drinker (whether or not the pejorative term “alcoholic” applies), then it’s possible that he may prescribe medications that would interact badly with the alcohol and cause a worse condition than what he already has.

JLeslie's avatar

@misstozak Yes, tell the doctor.

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