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J Stud Alcohol. 1988 Mar;49(2):178-85.

Delirium tremens: a prospective long-term follow-up study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry I, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.


A follow-up by health insurance records of 716 male hospital-treated alcoholics revealed a tendency to a more favorable long-term adjustment in patients with delirium tremens at first admission compared with others. Standardized ratings at first admission indicated that the delirium patients had lower frequencies of depressive symptomatology, personality disturbance and social complications. Slight cerebral impairment at first admission was more frequent in the delirium patients, perhaps indicating a more severe abuse. In a subsample of 105 personally followed-up patients it was found that subjects with delirium later during the course of their illness were characterized by a lower level of social stability at first admission, compared with those with an initial delirium or with no history of delirium tremens. Contrary to initial delirium, later delirium was related to an unfavorable course. Six subjects with a history of delirium tremens were found to have taken up social drinking. Patterns and processes of improvement were found to be related more to background characteristics in terms of personality disturbance and social stability than to the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

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