Substance Use

Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal?

Zinnia Healing

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

Is Alcohol Detox Dangerous?

Millions of Americans struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder. Alcohol abuse costs the US economy 249 billion dollars per year, and the human costs of alcohol abuse can be devastating. Each year, 88,000 people die in the US from alcohol-related accidents. Although alcohol abuse disorder is a devastating illness, there is help available. In any given year, 6.7% of all adults with alcohol use disorder will receive alcohol detox for alcohol addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol dependence and addiction, you might wonder if it’s safe to go through alcohol detox without help. You might also wonder if you’ll experience withdrawal and what that experience entails. Is it even safe to quit cold turkey? Can you successfully recover from alcohol addiction?

In this article, we’ll explore alcohol abuse and alcohol detox in-depth and their effects on the body before, during, and after withdrawal. We’ll also answer some of the many things you might wonder about alcohol detox and recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or going through alcohol withdrawal, contact us at (855) 430-9439 to discuss your options.

What Is Alcohol Addiction (Alcohol Use Disorder)?

Many people in the US safely consume alcohol and do not develop alcoholism or addiction to alcohol. Studies indicate that 86% of US adults have had an alcoholic beverage at some point. But around 6% of all US adults will develop dependence and full-blown addiction to alcohol. In addition, more adult men than women struggle with alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

There is not one definitive trigger that turns someone from a casual drinker into an alcoholic. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a complex disease. A combination of genetics, temperament, outside influences, and triggers can all make someone vulnerable to developing AUD.

AUD is a pattern of alcohol use where the individual has issues controlling the amount they drink. They are preoccupied with drinking and continue to use alcohol despite any negative consequences that excessive drinking causes. People who have AUD will need to consume more significant amounts of alcohol to get the desired effect (tolerance). When they try to quit drinking altogether or limit their consumption, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms vary from person to person and can be quite intense.

An AUD is suspected when the individual’s health and safety are put at risk because of drinking or they experience other alcohol-related problems. Binge drinking can be a symptom of AUD, but not all binge drinkers are dependent on alcohol. For men, binge drinking is when someone consumes five or more drinks within two hours. For women, it is four drinks within two hours.

What Is Alcohol Overdose, and Why Are People Who Abuse Alcohol at Risk?

Drinking too much or drinking too fast impairs your decision-making skills. In addition, people who drink a lot often have accidents and suffer from injuries due to poor motor coordination. Unfortunately, some people continue to drink despite these signs, putting themselves at risk for alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is too much alcohol in your bloodstream. This affects vital organs such as your heart and lungs.

Symptoms of alcohol overdose include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Panting
  • Seizure
  • Low body temperature
  • Dulled gag reflex

This is a life-threatening condition that, if not treated immediately, could lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Abusing prescription medication or mixing medication with alcohol can increase your risk of alcohol overdose. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these drugs include zolpidem, oxycodone, benzodiazepines, and illicit opioids. Alcohol detox programs also treat drug addiction programs for individuals who suffer from both addictions.

Are You at Risk for Alcohol Overdose?

Individuals who binge drink and have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08% or higher run the risk of alcohol poisoning. In addition, young adults are at a higher risk for alcohol overdose.

If you have a drinking problem and need help, reach out to an alcohol detox facility like Zinnia Healing. Zinnia Healing provides you with various treatments like an alcohol detox and therapy options that help you along your road to sobriety. Contact us at (855) 430-9439 and speak to a member of our intake team. In addition, we offer individualized programs to help you successfully stop drinking and lasting support after your stay in our facility.

Alcohol Withdrawal without Alcohol Detox

When a person tries to stop drinking on their own, they experience painful, severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be physical, mental, or emotional. In many cases, an individual will experience all three. The withdrawal timeline can also vary significantly from one individual to the next. Like the ones following, other factors influence the intensity and duration of alcohol abuse withdrawal symptoms.

  1. The length of time a person has struggled with alcohol addiction.
  2. If they abused other substances alongside alcohol, i.e., drugs and alcohol.
  3. How much alcohol the person consumed during their addiction.
  4. If they suffer from any comorbid or mental health issues. (Mental health issues can exacerbate alcohol abuse. They can also arise from alcohol abuse.)

When you drink, your liver releases an enzyme to help your body get rid of the alcohol. Alcohol that isn’t broken down and secreted is absorbed into other parts of the body, such as the brain. Alcohol suppresses neurotransmitters in the brain that cause the individual to feel at ease and relaxed while intoxicated. Once the alcohol wears off, the neurotransmitters are no longer dull. As a result, withdrawal symptoms occur.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms can start in as little as two hours after quitting. Within 27 to 48 hours, the symptoms will peak. In some cases, severe, post-withdrawal symptoms can linger.

Depression, anxiety, and occasional cravings are common post-withdrawal symptoms. Heavy, long-term drinkers are at high risk of developing life-threatening complications from alcohol withdrawal. The most common symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Shaking and hand tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • High fever and excessive perspiration
  • Delirium Tremens

Regardless of how long a person struggled with alcohol addiction, they will experience some symptoms. How severe these symptoms are or how many symptoms a person will experience varies. For example, a person who has abused alcohol for a long time or has abused alcohol with other substances will have potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. They are also more likely to experience long-lasting withdrawal symptoms.

Is There a Risk of Death From Alcohol Withdrawal Without Alcohol Detox?

Unfortunately, yes. For some people with alcohol addiction, delirium tremens is a risk factor during withdrawal. Delirium tremens is a deadly seizure disorder that can happen to heavy drinkers who’ve struggled with AUD for ten or more years. People who have experienced head injuries and illness during withdrawal are also at risk.

Usually, delirium tremens occur within the first several days after a person has had their last drink. However, it can happen as long as ten days after quitting. It is an unpredictable condition. This is why seeking help from an alcohol detox facility that offers medically supervised programs is so important. Medically trained staff are there in the case of an emergency and can quickly mobilize to reduce the risk of mortality. Often, alcohol detox centers offer medication to patients going through alcohol detox. This medication reduces the severity of symptoms and reduces the risk of complications during alcohol detox.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Delirium Tremens?

This serious seizure disorder can strike during a person’s withdrawal timeline. The key to survival is to recognize the symptoms. They include:

  • Severe confusion (delirium)
  • Tremors
  • Agitations
  • Excessive sleep
  • Fearfulness
  • Hallucinations
  • Strange bursts of energy
  • Stupor
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures

During this terrible event, a person may even lose control of their motor skills. Complications of delirium tremens can include: falls, seizures, and cardiac distress. In serious circumstances, it could cause death. Seek medical attention if you have tried to stop drinking on your own and are experiencing any of the above symptoms.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Because alcohol withdrawal can be painful and potentially dangerous, people must get help from experienced medical professionals. For alcohol abuse disorder treatment, medical detox centers and inpatient rehab facilities are especially helpful. In addition, because dangerous seizure disorders are a risk factor for alcohol withdrawal, medical professionals in a detox and rehab center can safely monitor patients for these complications.

It’s also important to seek treatment if you experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop on your own. Medical professionals can prescribe medications and help patients safely taper down from alcohol to lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms. In addition, a doctor can prescribe anxiety medications and medications for comorbid mental health conditions to help alcohol withdrawal patients. In cases where delirium tremens is suspected, patients will need to stay in a hospital where they can be monitored and prescribed medications for seizure disorders.

For people struggling with alcohol addiction, attending a medical detox center and a rehabilitation facility is a proven effective way to treat drug and alcohol addiction complexities. They can even help with mental health issues associated with alcoholism.

Just remember, there is help. You don’t have to go it alone. Going through alcohol detox may seem scary at first — but it will help you get back to normal. Then, you can begin to pick up the pieces and get your life back on track.

Contact Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439 to receive alcohol detox in a medically-supervised environment. Our caring staff is available 24/7 to help you along your path to sober living.