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Jackson A. Smith, M.D.
JAMA. 1953;152(5):384-387. doi:10.1001/jama.1953.03690050008004.
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Delirium tremens was first described by Sutton in 1813. Since that time many treatment approaches have been used, but the cause is still obscure. The frequency with which the condition is seen in hospitalized alcoholics varies in different series from 6.2% to 32%.1 It is not unusual to find a chronic alcoholic, however, who has had delirium tremens with transitory visual and auditory hallucinations on several occasions but has been hospitalized only once or twice. Therefore it would seem safe to presume that the individual patient may have incipient delirium tremens without seeking hospitalization, and that the frequency is higher than the records of alcoholics admitted to hospitals would indicate.

Delirium tremens may be divided into two phases: the incipient stage in which only tremors and marked apprehension exist, and the stage of active delirium tremens in which the patient is hallucinating and delirious. Alcoholics differentiate the two phases


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