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Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal?

by Will Long

July 13, 2023
alcohol withdrawal

In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that approximately 1-4% of patients admitted to hospitals with alcohol withdrawal syndrome, including delirium tremens (DTs), die from this condition.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a direct result of physical dependence on alcohol, a common consequence of prolonged heavy drinking. When someone who has been drinking alcohol heavily for a long period suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol consumption, withdrawal symptoms can occur. These symptoms may range from mild anxiety and shaking to severe complications, such as seizures and DTs.

Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Occur?

Alcohol acts as a depressant in the nervous system. Chronic drinking leads to adjusting the brain to its presence, maintaining normal function despite the high alcohol levels. When alcohol is suddenly removed from the system, the brain remains hyperactive, manifesting withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start as early as two hours after the last drink, but sometimes they might not appear until several days later. They normally peak within 24 to 72 hours.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

More severe symptoms may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever and heavy sweating
  • Confusion and disorientation

The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens (DTs), which can be fatal. Symptoms of DTs include:

  • Severe confusion
  • Vivid hallucinations and delusions
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Severe agitation

Managing Alcohol Withdrawal

Because alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, it is important to approach it with the right care and supervision. Medical detox is the safest way to stop drinking, especially for individuals with severe alcohol use disorder.

At Landmark Recovery, we provide medically supervised detox services that monitor patients 24/7, ensuring their safety during this tough phase. Our experienced medical team can administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, manage complications, and provide supportive care to improve the patient’s comfort during withdrawal.

The Importance of Professional Help

Given the potential dangers of alcohol withdrawal, professional help is not just a preference—it’s a need. At Landmark Recovery, we understand the challenges of alcohol use disorder and offer complete treatment plans that include medical detox, therapy, counseling, and long-term support. We design these plans to address the physical symptoms and the mental and social factors causing alcohol addiction.

Call Landmark Recovery Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t try to face it alone. Call Landmark Recovery at 888-448-0302. Our caring medical team is ready to help guide you through your recovery journey, from detoxification to aftercare, offering you the best chance of a successful and lasting recovery.

Remember, your life is valuable, and seeking help is never too late. Visit our locations page to find an alcohol treatment center near you.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.