What is the prevalence of delirium tremens (DTs)?

Updated: Nov 06, 2020
  • Author: Michael James Burns, MD, FACEP, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Using the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD) listed in DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), the 12-month and lifetime prevalences of AUD in US noninstitutionalized civilian adults is highest in men (17.6% and 36.0%, respectively), with higher prevalences in whites, Native Americans, younger adults, and previously married and never married adults, as compared with women, African Americans, Asian Americans, and older and married adults. [3] Less than 50% of alcohol-dependent persons develop any significant withdrawal symptoms that require pharmacologic treatment upon cessation of alcohol intake. The lifetime risk for developing delirium tremens (DTs) among individuals with chronic alcohol addiction is estimated at 5-10%. Only 5% of patients with ethanol withdrawal progress to DTs. White patients have a higher risk of developing severe alcohol withdrawal, while black patients have a lower risk. [4] Whether or not sex differences exist in the rates of development of severe alcohol withdrawal is not clear. In any particular alcohol-dependent person, symptoms of withdrawal can differ widely among different withdrawal episodes.

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