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 513-757-5000 and let us help you make your new alcohol free future!

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