Alcohol can kill, but alcohol withdrawal can also be deadly. On July 8th, Nelsan Ellis, an actor best-known for playing a short-order cook on the hit HBO series, “True Blood,” died while trying to self-detox from alcohol. The initial reports indicated that his death was due to heart failure complications. However, later results indicated that he suffered from other symptoms that were directly related to his attempts to withdraw from alcohol without medical assistance.
Far too often, alcoholism is not viewed as a serious substance abuse issue. Many believe that the quick and easy cure is to just stop drinking. However, alcohol withdrawal is a serious, life-threatening affliction with symptoms that can start as soon as a couple of hours after your last drink. Its signs can vary from mild shakiness and anxiety to severe seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). According to WebMD, the death rate from DTs is approximately one to five percent. Without medical intervention, it could only get worse, as was the case with this 39-year old actor.
Ellis’ attempt at alcohol withdrawal led to a blood infection, which caused kidney failure, liver swelling, blood pressure crashing, erratic heartbeats and death. As Lafayette on “True Blood,” Ellis was able to create some incredible combinations in his kitchen in Bon Temps, Louisiana. It’s too bad that he did not see the need to mix in addiction professionals when he attempted his alcohol withdrawal.