Alcohol Detox Has Damaging Effects on the Body That Require Proper Medical Treatment, The Nelsan Ellis Tragedy is a Harsh Reality
On July 8, 2017, HBO's "True Blood" actor Nelsan Ellis died from heart failure complications, which came as a shock to many people. According to a statement released by Ellis' manager Emily Saines, his attempt to self-detox from alcohol induced his heart failure and caused his death. Throughout his life, Ellis secretly struggled with an alcohol and drug addiction. His father states that the actor attempted to withdrawal from alcohol on his own after failing to maintain his sobriety despite multiple trips to rehab.
WebMD explains that alcohol withdrawal syndrome happens to those who greatly reduce or completely stop drinking alcohol after years or even weeks of heavy drinking. Anxiety, sweating, vomiting, shaky hands, seizures and death are symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. People may experience these symptoms in as little as two hours after drinking their last alcoholic beverage.
The actor's father claims that in Ellis' final hours, he suffered from a blood infection, swollen liver, reduced kidney function, a sharp decline in blood pressure and a racing heartbeat. Therefore, it is highly likely that Ellis felt many of the symptoms that occur from alcohol withdrawal during his self-detox effort.
People who suffer from an alcohol addiction can put themselves in jeopardy by trying to detox without medical supervision, especially if they have engaged in long-term habitual alcohol use. Under a doctor's supervision, people can reach sobriety by safely tapering off their alcohol consumption instead of dangerously quitting in an abrupt manner. Alcohol suppresses glutamate production by interrupting the brain's neurotransmitters. In turn, this makes the drinker feel excitable. In some cases, abruptly stopping alcohol use can result in brain hyper-excitability once there is no alcohol to inhibit the neurotransmitters, leading to the effects of withdrawal.
In stark contrast to his "True Blood" character's freewheeling ways, Ellis' father says that the actor was embarrassed by his alcohol addiction. He chose not to disclose his problems with alcohol to the public or inform his fans about his rehab stints. Ellis' strong desire to keep his substance-abuse battle private may have driven him to withdrawal without medical assistance, contributing his tragic death.
Due to the circumstances surrounding his death, Ellis' family wants to share his alcohol struggles with the world, hoping that Ellis' story may save the life of someone who is addicted to alcohol. His father describes the actor as a person who was kind to others and an amazing friend to those who knew him best; therefore, he feels that Ellis would want to help people by allowing to act as a wake-up call.