Delirium is a state of confusion and blurred awareness. It is coupled with abnormal thoughts and altered perception. Substance-induced delirium occurs when a person is using or withdrawing from alcohol or other drugs.

Many substances can cause symptoms of delirium. Some over-the-counter medications can contribute to confusion and changes in perception. Many prescription medications do the same. Substance-induced delirium is most common among people misusing prescription drugs or using illegal drugs. Drugs most commonly responsible for delirium symptoms include addictive substances such as benzodiazepines and opioids.

Identifying Delirium

Delirium symptoms indicate a serious health emergency. Pharmacy Times explains that delirium has four core features.

These include the following:
  • Disturbance of consciousness
  • Cognitive and perceptual disturbances
  • Sudden onset
  • Direct physiological causes1

A person experiencing substance-induced delirium will express a sudden or drastic change in personality. He or she will have trouble focusing or remembering. Speech and thoughts become scattered. Symptoms appear quickly, over the course of a day or less. These symptoms have an identifiable cause such as drug use or withdrawal, head trauma, organ failure or dehydration.

Is Delirium Serious?

Substance-induced delirium is temporary if treated. MedlinePlus explains: “Delirium often lasts about 1 week. It may take several weeks for mental function to return to normal. Full recovery is common, but depends on the underlying cause of the delirium.”2 When delirium goes untreated, it can reach dangerous levels and put lives at risk. Substance-induced delirium requires in a visit to the hospital or emergency room.

“In patients who are admitted with delirium, ”Medscape reports, “mortality rates are 10-26%. Patients who develop delirium during hospitalization have a mortality rate of 22-76% and a high rate of death during the months following discharge…Delirium is associated with worse survival and greater resource consumption in those with cardiac critical illness.”3 Delirium is serious. Individuals in need of help are often not aware of this fact or able to ask for it. However prompt medical attention leads to the best outcomes.

Immediate care should be followed by in-depth treatment that addresses the causes of the delirium. “The goal of treatment,” Medscape continues, “is to determine the cause of the delirium and stop or reverse it. Components of delirium management include supportive therapy.”3 If substances are the cause of delirium, individuals should follow hospitalization with a professional treatment program. Individuals just beginning their recovery journeys should choose programs offering medically supervised detox services, as withdrawal may be accompanied by new or continuing delirium symptoms.

An integrated treatment program offers comprehensive care from day one. It addresses co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns. It monitors physical, psychological and emotional health. Professionals have experience with delirium and can offer traditional and supportive therapies for both addiction and mental health recovery.

Your Future

Black Bear Lodge offers integrated care. We begin all programs with in-depth assessments. This allows us to provide comprehensive, personalized treatment plans. We combine the mental and physical health care therapies you or your loved one needs. Call 706-914-2327 to learn more about our services and how we can help you succeed in recovery today.

1 Wick, Jeannette, and Zanni, Guido. “Delirium: A Medical Emergency.” Pharmacy Times. 17 Mar. 2010. Accessed 8 Oct. 2017.

2 Campellone, Joseph. “Delirium.” MedlinePlus. 5 Jan. 2016. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017.

3/sup> Alagiakrishnan, Kannayiram, et al. “Delirium.” Medscape. 23 Aug. 2017. Accessed 8 Oct. 2017.