Can You Die from Alcohol Detox? – How Dangerous Is It?

Written by: Lynn Finnell, LMFT, LAADC | Reviewed by: Christian Small, MD

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    For many people struggling with alcohol use disorder, the withdrawal process looks very daunting. Detoxing from alcohol can bring with it several complexities and challenges, including the risk of suffering from significant physical symptoms.

    The detox process, in many cases, can be hazardous. Some people can die from alcohol detox. Undergoing detox through a certified treatment facility can make it easier to manage those symptoms in a safer environment.

    What are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder?

    Symptoms of alcohol use disorder may include dangerous alcohol use, including:

    • Inability to stop drinking, even when the patient wants to quit
    • Continuing to drink despite known social, physical, or job-related problems
    • Using alcohol in inappropriate circumstances, including at work or while driving
    • Cravings for alcohol
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing alcohol use
    • Focusing constantly on where the next drink will come from, or spending a great deal of the day thinking about drinking or what it will take to acquire more alcohol

    Patients with alcohol use disorder do not merely drink socially, and in fact, may struggle to contain social drinking to socially acceptable levels. Instead, those patients often engage in a high level of dangerous drinking activities.

    Learn about our San Diego detox services

    Going through alcohol withdrawal

    Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when patients abruptly discontinue or reduce alcohol consumption. Some patients will go through serious withdrawal symptoms, while others may have more minor symptoms. 

    Mild withdrawal symptoms may include:

    • Tremors or shakes occur most often within the first 24 hours following the patient's last drink.
    • Changes in blood pressure.
    • Anxiety, including sharp increases in anxiety-related behaviors.
    • Sweating
    • Nausea or stomach upset
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    Timeline for alcohol withdrawals & detox

    Most of the time, mild symptoms resolve within a few days.

    For patients with more serious alcohol abuse disorders, on the other hand, the withdrawal timeline may look different. Within 24-48 hours of the last drink, patients may suffer from seizures and hallucinations. They may also suffer from delirium in the days following the last drink. It may take a minimum of two weeks after stopping alcohol consumption for the brain to start to return to normal. 

    In some cases, detoxing from alcohol can be potentially fatal. This is why it is essential for the person to seek the advice and supervision of a medical professional before detoxing from alcohol dependency.

    Different levels of alcohol addiction

    Alcohol addiction can depend on the individual. Some people will quickly spiral into extreme addiction, particularly if not properly supervised when experimenting with alcohol. Others may experience relatively mild symptoms, but may still suffer from withdrawal when alcohol is removed.

    Level 1 Mild symptoms

    Mild symptoms of alcohol addiction, also known as early-stage alcoholism, occurs when people first start binge drinking regularly. It may include:

    • Occasional blackouts
    • Binge drinking, including consuming more than 4 drinks within 2 hours for women or 5 drinks within 2 hours for men
    • Claiming an intent to cut back, but proving unable to reduce drinking behaviors

    Many people suffering from early-stage alcoholism will have a hard time controlling the amount they drink regularly. They may claim that they intend to cut back, but never actually follow through.

    Level 2 Severe symptoms

    As alcohol addiction progresses, more severe symptoms may grow evident. In many cases, friends and family members will start to notice more serious problems. They may notice:

    • Alcohol addicts downplay the amount they drink
    • Drinking under dangerous circumstances, including at work or while minding children
    • Consequences related to drinking behaviors, including dropping grades or a decrease in performance at work
    • Excuses made for behavior related to drinking
    • Placing drinking ahead of other priorities

    As severe symptoms grow increasingly obvious, patients may need to go through the rehabilitation process to alleviate those behaviors and address any underlying conditions or symptoms. Patients who have underlying mental health challenges are more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse and may have a greater struggle to cease alcohol use.

    Level 3 Emergency symptoms

    In the most extreme cases, alcohol addiction can become an emergency. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to several serious symptoms. These symptoms may include:

    • All-day alcohol consumption, with little regard for other priorities or behaviors
    • Making drinking the most important part of the daily routine or life
    • Paranoia
    • Chronic drinking challenges

    In an emergency scenario, patients may suffer from immediate withdrawal symptoms any time they discontinue drinking. They may suffer from extreme paranoia or grow anxious or angry when they consider not drinking. 

    For extreme alcoholics suffering from emergency symptoms, treatment can prove critical. Patients amid a crisis, including excessive drinking, inability to stop drinking, or a dangerous binge, may also suffer from devastating symptoms that require emergency treatment to help aid the patient and avoid the associated risks.

    Can you die from alcohol detox?

    Dying from alcohol withdrawal is comparatively rare. However, some people can die as a result of the extreme symptoms associated with alcohol detox. Death may occur due to seizures, which can cause choking or asphyxiation, or due to the “delirium tremens,” or DTs, stage of withdrawal, during which people can suffer from intense symptoms.

    These symptoms may include:

    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Confusion and disorientation

    Even for patients who are not at risk of dying from alcohol detox, the process can prove very intense. Many patients find that they benefit from going through the detox process in a rehabilitation facility with certified caregivers who can help provide medical support throughout that process.

    Detox in luxury with Villa Oasis San Diego

    At Villa Oasis San Diego, we offer a variety of programs intended to empower our residents and help them take charge of their lives. We offer several programs designed to help with both medical detox and alcohol rehab to provide patients with ongoing support that can help carry them through the rehabilitation process and beyond. 

    Detoxing at our treatment center means that you can detox in luxury and comfort, which can help make it easier to get through those initial days after you take your last drink. We also offer medication-assisted detox that can help improve patient outcomes, making them more comfortable and confident in the entire process. 

    If you’re ready to start the rehabilitation process and get the help you need, contact us today to learn more or schedule a tour to learn more about the facility.

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