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Medical Marijuana and Delirium Tremens

What Is Delirium Tremens?

Delirium tremens is most commonly known as a condition that occurs when heavy drinkers stop drinking abruptly or that happens after an alcohol binge. However, delirium tremens is not only associated with alcohol. It can happen to people with infections or head trauma. Nonetheless, it occurs most commonly in individuals who have been drinking daily for a prolonged period. It is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal that is nearly synonymous with alcohol cessation. It is known colloquially as the "shakes" and the "DTs." Please note that delirium tremens is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is suffering from delirium tremens, seek medical attention immediately.  The symptoms of delirium tremens are more severe than most drug withdrawal symptoms and can lead to death. In fact, alcohol withdrawals are widely considered the most dangerous of addictive substance withdrawals. The most serious complications that occur with delirium tremens are seizures, hallucinations, heart palpitations and vomiting. Other symptoms include delirium, depression, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, fever, pain, tremors, headaches, sweats, increased heavy sleep, nightmares and mood changes. Delirium tremens is an acute illness and does pass after a period of days through which the illness builds before it finally peaks and breaks. It requires hospitalization as there is a high risk of death without treatment.

Medical Marijuana and Delirium Tremens

The Importance of Medicine in Delirium Tremens 

Delirium tremens is a well-documented condition that has been known for some time. In the past, there was very little to be done for patients with delirium tremens other than to ensure that they did not hurt themselves or others. According to Dr. Michael James Burns with University of California Irvine School of Medicine, up to 35% of patients who developed delirium tremens died before emergency care became the norm. However, the rates are still up to 15%, even with medical treatment. That is why getting care in the early stages of delirium tremens is critical. Calming medications, such as medical marijuana, can alleviate mental symptoms, which then makes treatment of physical symptoms less daunting. 

Delirium tremens is treated primarily with palliative care. As it is typically a symptom of alcohol withdrawal, continuing to drink alcohol can prevent delirium tremens. However, this is unadvisable, given that the amount of alcohol it takes to produce delirium tremens upon cessation is likely to cause debilitating and even deadly health problems. Hospitals use pharmaceuticals to keep the patient calm and to keep seizures and hallucinations under control. Medical marijuana can have a calming affect on patients who react well to it. It can decrease nightmares, according to a study done on PTSD sufferers. It can also help with nausea and vomiting. As such, it has potential as a treatment for delirium tremens and has been used to treat the illness by doctors of the past and present. 

Evidence That Medical Marijuana Helps With Delirium Tremens

Much of the evidence that medical marijuana is a viable treatment for delirium tremens is either through experience or through its known capacity for helping specific symptoms. Of the slew of delirium tremens symptoms, all of them have some history of treatment with medical marijuana or testimony from sufferers that it can help. In some cases, there are even studies showing that medical marijuana can be of assistance with these symptoms. The symptoms of delirium tremens that have strong research regarding treatment with medical marijuana include nightmares, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, headaches and pain. 

As for delirium tremens headaches, the two headache types commonly known as the most painful -- cluster and migraine -- have been effectively treated with medical marijuana. This suggests that other headache types can respond to medical marijuana. It also suggests, as does modern research in pain treatment, that medical marijuana has analgesic effects. It is used to combat chronic pain in cancer sufferers. Research suggests it can be used to supplement opiates in chronic pain treatment and it has been used to treat pain for thousands of years. 

As mentioned above, medical marijuana can decrease nightmares in anxiety disorders like PTSD. It is also used to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy and AIDS patients. These are well chronicled and FDA supported uses for synthetic medical marijuana. All of the evidence points to the fact that medical marijuana alleviates nausea. This can help those with delirium tremens relax, help their doctors administer medication and help them get the nutrients they need to recover physically.

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