Can alcohol withdrawal kill you?

It’s no secret that heavy, frequent alcohol consumption can be extremely detrimental to your physical and psychological health. Chronic alcohol use can affect the major organs of the body, including your brain and heart, in addition to increasing the risk of conditions such as stroke and cancer. Frequent alcohol use is also associated with depression, anxiety, relationship problems and cognitive issues such as poor attention and memory.

With this in mind, it would seem like a good idea to cut down on your drinking as quickly as possible. The process of reducing heavy drinking, however, needs to be taken very seriously because of the many possible complications associated with alcohol withdrawal. These include seizures, delirium tremens, vomiting, nausea, and tragically for many people, death.


The risks involved in withdrawing from heavy drinking are largely related to the impact of chronic alcohol consumption on the brain. In the world of neuroscience, the term ´plasticity´ is used to describe how the brain can re-wire itself in response to the environment and experiences. What this means in the context of heavy drinking, is that the brain changes to adapt to the experience of chronic alcohol exposure. This adaptation means that over time, heavy drinking leads to the brain becoming dependent on high levels of alcohol consumption. At this point, cutting down the amount that you drink can lead to a range of very unpleasant and potentially dangerous symptoms. This is part of the reason that it is common to become trapped in a cycle of drinking to avoid the negative effects of not drinking.


When alcohol consumption has escalated to the point of physical dependence, medically assisted withdrawal can provide a safe and dependable solution to the problem of heavy drinking.   Medically assisted withdrawal involves a comprehensive medical assessment prior to withdrawal, which takes into account pre-existing health conditions as well as the current functioning of your heart and liver. As part of your assessment, a medical doctor will also explore factors that may increase the risk of withdrawal complications, such as a history of seizures. On the basis of the assessment, you may be prescribed medication(s) to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Your vital signs (including blood pressure, respiratory rate and pulse) will be monitored regularly and trained staff will identify and respond to the earliest signs of potential complications.

If you are at the point where you feel that your alcohol use has become problematic and you are considering stopping drinking, you may be on the verge of one of the most important decisions of your life. Given that alcohol withdrawal can be fatal if managed incorrectly, we strongly recommend that you seek medical advice to help you withdraw from alcohol safely. If you are considering attending an alcohol rehab centre to help you stop drinking, it is important to ask about the policies and procedures that they have in place to support you through this process safely and successfully. Further information regarding withdrawal from drug and alcohol addiction can be found on our website.

Dr Terry Spokes, Clinical Director, Bali Beginnings Drug & Alcohol Rehab Centre[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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