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Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal?

Posted in Relapse Prevention

Although not very common, death is possible from alcohol withdrawal, according to a recent report on MSNBC health addictions. The debate has been at the forefront of talks after singer Amy Winehouse’s death. Her family believes she may have had fatal seizures due to alcohol withdrawal and although experts say it can happen, it is not very common.

University of Miami Miller doctor, Robert Schwartz, says that someone who has been a heavy drinker consuming alcohol for several years could probably have seizures that are severe. Such seizures can cause you to accidentally inhale food through your trachea and up through the stomach, which can lead to death by choking. A lethal seizure could also result from hitting your head severely.

There are many common symptoms of withdrawal such as sweating, racing heart, and difficulty sleeping. A person going through withdrawal can also experience states of delirium, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and hyperventilation, says Schwartz.

A long-time alcoholic has adapted to these changes in his metabolic makeup so abstaining from the drug suddenly and completely can be dangerous. Due to the toxicity of the alcohol, the person’s metabolism and central nervous system have changed over the course of their drinking.

Schwartz says the body will develop a homeostasis with alcohol and when you take that away, you upset the balance. Another doctor with the Medical Center in Rochester says an alcoholic that withdraws from alcohol will go through a condition of hyper-arousal. Because alcohol is essentially a sedative, when it disappears from the system, effects in the body are quite the opposite.

If you know someone who is an alcoholic, advise them to seek help from an addiction center for alcoholics or a medical professional. They need to be safely monitored during detoxification and not try this on their own.