Alcohol withdrawal: Here’s how you can die from it

“True Blood” actor Nelsan Ellis died Saturday from heart failure, due to complications from a “withdrawal from alcohol,” his family said.

Ellis’ family released a statement describing how the 39-year-old actor “attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own.” Ellis then suffered from a blood infection, kidney failure, a swollen liver, low blood pressure and heart failure, his family said.

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But can you die from alcohol withdrawal?

According to American Addiction Centers, “attempting a cold-turkey or at-home detox from alcohol” can be risky and “even life-threatening.”

The withdrawal occurs when heavy drinkers cut back their alcohol intake.

Alcohol is poisonous to the human body, Dr. Robert Schwartz of the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine told LiveScience.com. Consuming alcohol can cause changes to a person’s metabolism and central nervous system.

“Your body develops a homeostasis with alcohol,” Schwartz said. “As soon as you take it away, you’re upsetting that balance.”

Once a body reliant on alcohol no longer has the substance, that body will go through a series of changes.

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The body will experience withdrawal effects similar to what Ellis experienced: high blood pressure and a swollen liver. Bodies can also experience anxiety, agitation, vomiting, dehydration, tremors and can even experience hallucinations and seizures.

A hangover, for example, is a form of alcohol withdrawal, Cyndie Dunkerson, a clinical supervisor at a detox and rehab center, told NBC News.

If alcohol works as a sedative for people and helps them to relax, alcohol withdrawal does the opposite of that, according to Dunkerson.

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Withdrawing from alcohol doesn’t have to be fatal, Dunkerson said, but very often it is. Lucida Treatment, a rehabilitation center in Florida, suggests to detox through a rehabilitation facility, rather than attempting to withdraw on your own.

Addicts can attend both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers where there are medically-monitored rehab programs available.