Delirium Tremens: How to Help your Close Person?

Aug 28, 2019

“I started drinking at 15. Alcohol solved many of my personal problems – my fears and complexes disappeared. Then it seemed to me that it was wonderful. My school days consisted of constant parties with booze. Then there was my professional college with the same drinking parties.

At the age of 25 I realized that I had become an alcoholic. I was unable to stop and overcome my dependence. We drank with my friends till vomiting and we were drinking for many days without stopping. I had little money, because I constantly changed my job. Of course we drank cheap quality alcohol.

I do not know how much my drunkenness would have continued, if I did not catch jimjams at the age of 30. During a binge I just thought for how many days I had been already drinking? I found it difficult to find out and it turned out to be about 3 weeks. There was no money for the next bottle, so I decided to give up for a couple of days. It was really difficult. On the first day, I had such a terrible hangover, which I had never experienced before. I felt hot and cold, thirst tortured me, and my stomach and head were paining so much. The next day it became a little easier physically. But by the evening, the jimjams began. I hardly remember those days – everything was like being in a fog. There was a colored carrousel and strange sounds in front of my eyes, though I was alone at home. For some reason it seemed that someone was watching me, so I was running convulsively around the house and hiding in the corners. My hearing had become more acute, like I had begun to hear what the neighbors were saying. And they talked about me – they were blaming such a drunkard. I really believed in my hallucinations and did not understand that I had jimjams. I was lost in time – I slept, then again hid in the corners from the “enemies”. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had not come out into the street on the fourth  day of my clanks. And I came out to deal with my “chasers”. As doctors told me later, I fell down in the street, and someone called an ambulance. The doctors came and immediately took me to the narcological dispensary. I don’t remember the next couple of days – I was on a drip, all the time I was sleeping. I was brought back to life and the treatment started. When I was completely sober, I became scared – what have I become? Jimjams could kill me. This was a turning point – I realized that I needed to stop.

I have not been drinking for 3 years already. Now I realize that the happiest period of my life is just the time when I didn’t drink. The most difficult thing was to start alcohol therapy, when it was necessary to admit to myself the existing problem”.

– Igor, 33

It seems that the most terrible place where alcoholism can lead, is chronic diseases of the internal organs. But there is another thing, which brings no less dangerous consequences of excessive use of alcohol – jimjams. Unfortunately, doctors do not always give a positive prognosis for the recovery of patients who come to hospital in this condition. In the article we will talk about what are jimjams. What symptoms do they have? What can be done if  jimjams are present in your close one?


  • What are jimjams or delirium tremens?
  • Reasons for the formation of delirium tremens
  • Signs of jimjams
  • Stages of the disease
  • Features of delirium tremens in men and women
  • What should be done if a person has started to have jimjams?
  • Treatment of delirium tremens
  • Possible complications and consequences of jimjams
  • The best prevention of jimjams is the treatment of alcoholism

What are jimjams or delirium tremens?

The state of a person, which is popularly called jimjams or clanks is correctly designated as delirium tremens (alcoholic delirium) in official medicine. It is a sharp psychosis occurring against the background of withdrawal syndrome after abandoning alcohol. [1]

Jimjams are often confused with the state in which a strongly drunk person may be in. In general, symptoms can be similar – visual and auditory hallucinations, confused consciousness, difficult speech, elevated body temperature. But in fact, jimjams develop after a period of 5 days to 2-3 months, when the consumption of alcohol is sharply limited. The complete abolition of alcohol leads to a real withdrawal, which provokes disorders in the function of the brain and internal organs.

Delirium is the most often diagnosed type of alcoholic psychosis, which occurs at the second or third stages of alcoholism. According to statistics, jimjams in 64% of cases develop in patients aged 40-50 years, in 22% of cases – up to 40 years. [2]

Reasons for the formation of delirium tremens

Alcoholic delirium, as a rule, develops at a chronic stage of alcoholism after 5-7 years of constant drinking. But in a number of cases, if the state of an addict is complicated by a degree of mental illness, the symptoms of jimjams can come earlier at the first or second stage of alcoholism. [2]

The mechanism for the development of the disease is not fully established, but some experts believe that violations of the metabolic processes in the brain tissues caused by long-term drinking, play an important role in its development. When an addict abruptly stops drinking alcohol, the withdrawal syndrome increases in time, accompanied by severe symptoms of jimjams, the consequences of which can bring serious harm to health.

People who are at risk are those:

  • who previously had traumatic brain injury,
  • who constantly consume surrogate alcoholic drinks,
  • who have suffered severe psychological trauma,
  • who practice non-trusted homemade ways of alcohol abruption.

Experts believe that heredity factors may also increase the risks of the development of jimjams. [2]

Signs of jimjams

Alcoholic delirium fully shows itself on the 2nd – 4th day after a sharp abruption of alcohol. The beginning of jimjams is preceded by typical symptoms of acute withdrawal syndrome:

  • sleep disorders,
  • a sense of anxiety,
  • disturbance,
  • vomiting and diarrhea,
  • lack of appetite,
  • limb cramps,
  • [3]

The state of a person with the development of delirium tremens quickly becomes worse. Jimjams are characterized with the following signs:

  • auditory and visual hallucinations,
  • confused consciousness,
  • temporary loss of consciousness,
  • broken speech,
  • hand tremor,
  • skin redness,
  • yellowing of whites of the eyes,
  • high blood pressure,
  • fast heart rate,
  • increased sweating,
  • epileptic seizures. [3]

Stages of the disease

Jimjams last on average for 3-5 days. There are three stages of the disease in narcology. [3]

1st stage (threatening delirium)        

Hallucinations begin to appear mostly in the evening.  Initially these are not clear visual illusions with high anxiety, but they further enhance the patient’s sensitivity to external irritants.

A person is anxious, practically does not sleep, does not eat at all, talks with himself/herself. There is a slight increase in body temperature and sweating.

If an addict at the initial stage of delirium begins to drink again, then the symptoms gradually go away.

2nd stage (accomplished delirium)   

Hallucinations become increasingly vivid. The stories of patients who had jimjams prove that illusions can be various – dead relatives, movie characters, friends, mythical creatures, animals. Hallucinations become so realistic that the victim can completely lose connection with reality.

The body temperature becomes higher and the heart rate increases to critical values. The patient can become aggressive, because the hallucinations are very frightening.

Alcoholic delirium at the second stage can’t be cured by itself. Immediate medical treatment by doctors is required.

3rd stage (life threatening delirium) 

The patient’s nervous excitation decreases. Jimjams during this period are shown by completely incoherent speech. Severe seizures may occasionally occur.

Hallucinations continue, accompanied by simple stereotypical actions – sighs of limbs, turns of the head, moving lips. The patient ceases to understand who and where he/she is. He/she may not recognize relatives and fall into epileptic seizures.


The depressed state of the patient progresses. It can develop into brain edema, which is fraught with coma and potential for death.

Features of delirium tremens in men and women

According to the statistics of narcologists, there are more men with symptoms of jimjams, who entered the hospital, than women – about 90% of all reported cases. There is no specific explanation for this “exacerbation” of withdrawal syndrome. Some doctors believe that men, unlike women, often go into long bouts of drinking, which are conductive to causing the development of jimjams.

Alcoholic delirium in women can occur after just 3-4 years of continuous drinking. This is due to physiological features – in a woman’s body there are fewer enzymes that split ethanol, and therefore intoxication with the constant use of alcohol-containing drinks occurs earlier. [2]

In general, the symptoms of jimjams in men and women are similar. But women are more likely to have abortive types of hallucinations. This state is characterized by a smaller disturbance of consciousness and illusions tend not cause a loss of orientation in time. This condition worsens for 2-3 hours, then everything becomes normal again. [2]


Medical practice has established that jimjams in women are more pronounced. Women (with the same period of alcoholism) tolerate deterioration of their physical condition much less ably than men, which complicates and delays the treatment process. The period of rehabilitation after detoxification of the organism is difficult. There is a depressed emotional state after the treatment of psychosis in women, which comes more often than in men. [2]

What should be done if a person has started to have jimjams?

Treatment of alcoholic delirium at home can be dangerous for a person!

Patients with jimjams often are unable to take care of themselves – deterioration of the physical condition and constant hallucinations confuse the consciousness. A person often does not understand what is happening to him/her and cannot do the simplest action – such as call an ambulance. Therefore, the responsibility falls upon the family.

Have you noticed that when a person suddenly stops taking alcohol, he/she may have symptoms, which are not typical of normal alcohol withdrawal? If there is especially an epileptic attack, then almost certainly in the evening jimjams will begin. Therefore, call an ambulance immediately. Any of your actions aimed at home treatment for jimjams can have negative consequences for the health of the addict. This is especially true for antibiotics, that you may want to give a person to relieve their condition during jimjams. Do not do this, the addict needs immediate assistance from specialists.

All that is recommended to do if a person has jimjams is to put him/her on the bed and wait for the arrival of an ambulance. If the patient becomes aggressive, bind him/her without blocking the respiratory tract. [4]

Treatment of delirium tremens

Jimjams are treated in a narcological dispensary. The scheme of the therapy includes intensive detoxification of the body from the products of the decay of ethanol. Drug therapy is aimed at eliminating psychotic phenomena, normalizing metabolism, restoring the functions of organs, as well as preventing the development of persistent cognitive disorders.

In the process of detoxification, the patient is given intravenous administration of salt solutions and vitamins. He/she is also prescribed nootropes to prevent the occurrence of disorders in the function of the brain.

The period of treatment depends on the stage of the disease and the presence of other pathologies in the patient. But in many cases, the term of stay in the narcological department of the hospital will be at least 2 weeks.


The patient is discharged from the hospital when his/her physical condition is restored. If the patient wishes to combat the addiction, he/she will be given psychotherapy. Relatives should make every effort to convince him/her to fight the alcoholism. Otherwise, during the next drinking session there is a risk of being in hospital again with diagnosed alcoholic delirium.


Possible complications and consequences of jimjams

There are three possible outcomes of cases of jimjams:

  1. Full recovery

Full recovery of a patient without any deviations in health is possible only with a minimal “drinking period” of alcoholism, absence of chronic diseases in their history and timely treatment by the doctor at the first symptoms of jimjams. But such cases are rare. As a rule, delirium develops after long years of drinking, when health has already been undermined.

  1. Recovery with deterioration of health

Complications after jimjams more often occur at the second and third stages of the disease. These include:

  • chronic psychosis;
  • temporary amnesia;
  • heart, lung, liver, and kidney diseases. [2]

In a patient who has suffered jimjams, even after drinking a small amount of alcohol, psychosis will develop much more easily – which can lead to death.

  1. Fatal outcome

Deaths of patients with acute alcoholic psychosis are reported to be about 3% of the total number of those seeking medical care. People often die from pathologies that have worsened against the background of jimjams. Often these are heart diseases, hepatitis and pancreatitis. [5]

The best chance to cope with a delirium is to consult a doctor in time. If treatment is started at the first or second stages of the disease, a patient significantly improves his/her chances of survival.

The best prevention of jimjams is the treatment of alcoholism

A person can hide his/her alcoholism from others for a long time. But by the moment when there is a danger of the development of alcoholic delirium, it is no longer possible to “veil” the existing drink problem. And if an addict is not fully aware of the risks and dangers of being under the influence over some time, his/her close ones should not give up. It is important to convince the person that he/she needs treatment. How can you do it better?  Show them this article. Getting rid of dependence is the best way to avoid jimjams.

Healing is impossible without psychotherapy, because an emotional attachment to alcohol even after intensive detoxification in the dispensary remains for a long time. A person can no longer say “no” to the harmful habit even at a difficult stage of the disease,

One of the new psychological methods of treating alcoholism is via the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented course based on the theories of I.P Pavlov, B. F. Skinner and A. A. Ukhtomsky.

The training will help an addict, who has recognized the problem, to master a healthy behavior model. For many, alcohol is a means for relieving stress and relaxation. Over time, this  becomes a serious dependency. By changing negative settings, one learns to find more rational ways to get rid of fears and depression. This is the best prevention of frequent binges, and accordingly, of the development of alcohol delirium.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique course is designed for up to 6 weeks. The training is conducted in strict confidentiality – if a person finds it difficult to tell his/her family about the existing problem, he/she need not do it. A psychologist gives all necessary consultations in convenient remote mode – by e-mail, in chat and by phone.

Don’t allow alcoholism to lead to the development of jimjams. This is a serious dependency that requires immediate treatment.


Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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