How Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal?

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Alcohol withdrawal is a common experience many people have to go through when trying to gain sobriety from an alcohol addiction (also known as alcoholism). With alcohol withdrawal fatality rates being upwards of 30% of those who detox from alcohol, many people might be wondering “how can you die from alcohol withdrawal?”. 

Many people see alcohol as less lethal than other substances like cocaine, or heroin. After all, alcohol is legal. Not only is it legal, but it is also integrated into our daily lives. We celebrate many occasions with it and use it to mingle with co-workers and friends for happy hours and social gatherings. Therefore, alcohol is often not seen as a potentially dangerous substance. 

However, alcohol is one of the only substances that can cause fatal withdrawals. Unlike more sinister drugs like heroin or cocaine, alcohol has quite a shockingly high mortality withdrawal rate. 

Upon stopping alcohol, a chronic heavy drinker can experience what’s known as Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. The onset of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome will usually begin about 48 hours after stopping consumption. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome can last up to 5 days, and if left untreated, has almost a 35% mortality rate. 

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal can be an incredibly difficult and painful process. It is always recommended that you complete your withdrawal and detox process in an alcohol rehab facility as alcohol withdrawal can result in death if not properly treated. 

There are some symptoms that you can look for to know if you or a loved one are in the beginning stages of alcohol withdrawal and detox. 

These symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Confusion 
  • Severe autonomic hyperactivity: trembling, sweating, tachycardia
  • Nausea, and vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Again, it’s incredibly important that you seek treatment for alcohol withdrawal and detox in a medically supervised setting in order to avoid potentially dangerous or even deadly complications.  

More serious symptoms like Delirium Tremens (uncontrollable shaking) is a sure sign that you need to get to a hospital or detox facility. 

Why Can You Die from Alcohol Withdrawal?

You may be wondering, “Why can you die from alcohol withdrawal?”. Severe complications like Delirium Tremens and seizures can occur in the absence of alcohol if an individual’s body is physically dependent on it and can cause death. In these cases, it’s vital that a medical professional is present to administer the proper treatment or these symptoms can, unfortunately, result in a fatality. 

What is Delerium Tremens?

Many people who quit drinking cold turkey do not experience Deliriums Tremens (DTs), and most heavy drinkers may experience withdrawal for a few days, but their lives are not always in jeopardy. However, for those who do experience DTs, the onset and peak of symptoms will usually occur 24h to 5 days after cessation.  

Delirium Tremens have the capability to cause death. They begin because the brain is used to functioning with alcohol and when it’s removed, the brain sends the body into a panic. You are most likely to experience DTs if you are a long-term, heavy drinker. For example, a brain that is used to 3 beers a day compared to a brain used to 12, will have a different level of DTs.

Death from DTs can occur because a rapid heart rate can lead to a heart attack. While this is fairly rare, it is nonetheless possible, which is why drinking cessation under supervision can be the safest way to stop drinking.  

Overcome Alcohol Addiction at Ohio Community Health

At Ohio Community Health we know how hard the struggle can be to stop drinking.  We know it can be a long arduous battle!  We have the staff, resources, and support you need to begin your new life without alcohol.  

From supervised detox, to residential and aftercare, let us help and support you along your journey to recovery.  We know each individual’s recovery is their own, and we are able to customize a plan of treatment that fits you. 

From medically assisted treatment to group and individual therapy, we know how to treat the person as a whole, and make your transition into a new sober life as smooth as possible.  

Reach out to us today at Call (877) 679-2132 and let us help you make your new alcohol free future!

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn