In the United States, alcohol is linked to almost 90,000 deaths every single year – and now alcohol withdrawal is linked to Nelsan Ellis’s death at the young age of 38. Best known for his portrayal of Lafayette on HBO’s True Blood, Ellis passed away just a few short weeks ago. According to a statement released by his family, Ellis suffered from a substance use disorder for years. He had attended several different rehab programs, but early in July, he tried withdrawing from alcohol on his own.
What is the Risk of Alcohol Withdrawal?
During alcohol withdrawal, the actor’s kidney shut down, his liver swelled, his blood pressure dropped, and ultimately his heart rate shot up. These extreme withdrawal symptoms created heart complications and have been identified as the cause of death. This sobering account of fatal alcohol withdrawal is a stark reminder of the dangers of alcohol abuse and the risks of going through withdrawal without professional help.
Nelsan Ellis Struggled with Addiction for Years
According to his family, Ellis had issues with drugs and alcohol for many years. He had been in and out of recovery programs but kept returning to his alcohol abuse. Ellis’ story shows how prevalent addiction is in the United States. He was born to a successful family in Illinois, and later attended Oxford University, Columbia College and the famous Juilliard School. After graduating from Juilliard, Ellis saw acting success in both film and television productions. Despite this success, Ellis continued to struggle with an alcohol use disorder and the abuse of other illicit substances. During this time, Ellis was also reluctant to talk about alcohol abuse openly – even with those close to him. According to a statement from his family, Ellis felt ashamed of his addiction to alcohol and avoided talking about it throughout his life. Unfortunately, this is a pitfall that many individuals suffering from addiction struggle with. The news of Ellis’s death resulted in a massive and supportive response from friends and friends alike. However, it seems that this support came too late for the young actor. Nelsan Ellis is now simply gone too soon due to alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol Withdrawal Linked to Nelsan Ellis’s Death at an Early Age
There is a clear distinction here: it was not alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose that caused Nelsan Ellis to pass away at such an early age. Instead, it was heart complications from withdrawal symptoms. The actor attempted to detox from alcohol on his own.
“Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”
~ Alan Ball, True Blood creator
The actor did not pass away directly from the effects of drugs or alcohol. Instead, Ellis’s death is attributed to heart failure as a result of self-directed alcohol detox. Take note: attempting withdrawal from any substance on your own can be dangerous.
Avoiding the Danger of Alcohol Withdrawal: Signs to Look For
Withdrawal from any substance (including alcohol) has an extreme effect on the body. It can cause some systems to fail, wreak havoc on your nervous system, and even produce hallucinations. Because of these extreme symptoms, it is always recommended that you seek out professional help in alcohol detox or withdrawing from drugs. Some of the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms to be on the lookout for include:
- Confused thinking or speech
- Severe anxiety
- Higher blood pressure
- A racing heart rate
- Shaking hands
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleep problems
The intensity of these symptoms depends on how long and how much someone has been abusing alcohol. In extreme cases, alcohol withdrawal can turn into delirium tremens. This is a serious and life-threatening condition identified by hallucinations, severe tremors, and even seizures. Delirium tremens is most common in people who have struggled with alcoholism for multiple years.
A Cautionary Tale of Addiction and Alcoholism
The death of Nelsan Ellis as a result of alcohol withdrawal is a sad example of someone being gone too soon.
“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serving as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”
~ Emily Gerson Saines, Ellis’s Manager
Clearly, Ellis’s family wants others to know how serious issues alcoholism is. It can even be life-threatening if it goes untreated. Over time, alcohol abuse can create a host of health complications and behavioral issues – the addiction itself included. But Ellis’s death is not only a cautionary tale of the dangers of alcohol. It is also a reminder of how important it is to seek out professional help in overcoming alcoholism or drug addiction. Even though Ellis took a step in the right direction by attempting to detox from alcohol, going through withdrawal on his own ultimately cost him his life.
How to Avoid Complications from Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcoholism is not uncommon in the United States: at least 15 million adults suffer from an alcohol use disorder. In contrast, less than 1.5 million have received treatment for alcoholism.
“It’s clear that alcohol misuse is a serious problem – one that, again, the data suggests is getting worse. Yet it’s a problem that gets little public attention.”
~ German Lopez, writing for Vox Magazine
The following are a few ways that you can avoid the dangerous complications from alcohol withdrawal.
1) Look for Warning Signs
Denial is a common element of alcoholism or drug addiction. If you see any of the withdrawal symptoms outlined above after going a day without a drink, it may be a sign that alcoholism is present in your life. Drinking alcohol just to avoid these withdrawal symptoms is also a sign of addiction. If this is the case, it is most likely time to get some help.
2) Ask for Help
One of the most dangerous things an alcoholic can do is keep their addiction to themselves. If you recognize alcoholism in your life, reach out to the friends and family around you and ask for help. This may be difficult, but it can also be life-saving.
3) Go to Rehab
Many people think that rehab is just for individuals addicted to hard drugs. However, rehab and similar intensive outpatient alcohol abuse treatment programs can be extremely helpful for those looking to overcome their dependence on alcohol. It is also a safer environment for withdrawal and detox. The fact that alcohol withdrawal was linked to Nelsan Ellis’s death shows that the actor is simply gone too soon. Thankfully, with professional help and medical detox, alcohol withdrawal does not have to be life-threatening. If you think you may go through alcohol withdrawal, do not hesitate to reach out for help today.