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Can You Die from Withdrawal?

The topic of addiction and withdrawal from drugs and alcohol generates meaningful discourse and raises substantial public health concerns. Searching for addiction, alcohol, and drug withdrawal topics or discussion forums can be surprising. Many people are concerned about these issues.

A significant question typically asked is: Can withdrawal kill you?

Withdrawing from a drug or alcohol use disorder can be uncomfortable and sometimes fatal. Knowing the factors associated with withdrawal from substances such as opioids, alcohol, cocaine, fentanyl, meth, hallucinogens, marijuana, and stimulants is essential. This knowledge will help you recognize when it is necessary to seek help for yourself or your loved one.

Opioid and Opiate Withdrawal

You might be curious about the question, "Can you die from opiate withdrawal?" Before addressing this concern, let's first understand these substances. People sometimes use the terms "opiate" and "opioid" interchangeably, but they do have differences.

Opiates are chemicals manufactured especially from opium, naturally generated from the opium poppy plant. Morphine and codeine are two examples of opiates.

Opioids cover a wider range of chemicals than other drugs. These include natural opiates, which come from opium, and synthetic or semi-synthetic compounds similar to opiates.

Manufacturers can derive opioids naturally, like hydrocodone or oxycodone, or create them entirely in a lab, like fentanyl or tramadol.

Doctors commonly prescribe opioid medications to control pain and alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms. They interact with various receptors in the brain and body, diminishing pain perception and inducing sensations of relaxation and pleasure. We can categorize opioids into two main groups: illegal opiates and prescription opioids.

A prescription opiate is a drug sold lawfully and given by medical practitioners for pain management. The following are some examples of prescribed opioids:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco)

  • Morphine (MS Contin, Kadian)

  • Codeine

  • Fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq)

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

  • Meperidine (Demerol)


People classify opioids as illicit when individuals use them without a valid prescription, a practice frequently linked to illegal drug markets. These opioids have a notorious reputation for misuse and abuse. Among the illicit opioids are:

  • Heroin: Are you interested in learning about heroin and the potential fatality of its withdrawal? Heroin is an illicit and highly addictive opioid derived from morphine. It is available in various forms, including white, brown, and black powder. Moreover, one can find it in a sticky, dark substance called "black tar."


Withdrawal from heroin can be a challenging experience. Therefore, the question arises: Can you die from heroin withdrawal? The answer is unequivocally YES!

  • Fentanyl: This is a potent synthetic opioid that is often manufactured illegally. It is among the most potent opioids. Fentanyl is more powerful than before. This raises the risk of overdose. It is also a major contributor to the sharp increase in overdose deaths in recent years.


So, the question remains: can you die from opioid withdrawal? Please note that the acute pain and flu-like symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal can give rise to severe complications. There is a significant chance of relapse during this stage. This could lead to an overdose, organ damage, and even death.

Besides overdosing, two often-seen withdrawal symptoms during opioid withdrawal, notably vomiting, and diarrhea, significantly contribute to opioid fatalities. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration.


This can lead to increased blood salt levels, known as hypernatremia; if left untreated, it can cause heart failure. It is important to seek emergency medical care if this occurs.

It is important to emphasize that prescription opioids can help with pain management. However, when using them, there is also a risk of overdose, addiction, and dependency. Illicit opioids, such as heroin and illegally synthesized fentanyl, pose greater risks. Their potency is unpredictable, and they may react with other drugs.

If you or someone you know is using opioids, it is important to seek professional help. Consider exploring addiction treatment options. 

Medically Reviewed:


Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Alcohol Use Disorder: Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Death?

If you are wondering, "Can you die from alcohol withdrawal?" it's important to understand that alcohol withdrawal poses significant risks. Despite its legal availability, alcohol is associated with more than 140,000 fatalities each year.

Those who have successfully battled alcohol addiction would likely concur that detox and withdrawal can induce intense feelings of imminent death. Most people can stop drinking alcohol without serious side effects. However, for those with severe alcoholism or other mental health issues, the situation can be life-threatening.

The answer is YES; Chronic alcohol use disorder can cause physical exhaustion. Its withdrawal syndrome can be even more draining. However, two hazardous withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone is dependent on alcohol.

People with a long history of heavy alcohol consumption are more prone to seizures during detox and withdrawal. This is especially true during the early stages of the process. This can cause life-threatening uncontrollable convulsions, choking, aspiration, or physical harm.


Delirium tremens (DTs) are estimated to affect 2-5% of hospitalized people. This disorder has a fatality risk ranging from 1-15%. Hospitalization is linked to alcohol. Various risky withdrawal symptoms characterize it, including drowsiness, disorientation, hyperactivity, epileptic attacks, heart attacks, and strokes. 


Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction is critical if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol dependency. The occurrence of seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) signifies that one needs help to quit drinking.

Rolling Hills Recovery Center offers free 24/7 addiction support. Call today and confidentially speak with our addiction specialists at 855-559-8550.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can result in grand mal seizures and the onset of severe psychiatric problems that can be life-threatening. Expert medical and therapeutic support is essential for managing withdrawal symptoms. This will help ensure a safe and successful recovery. Among the most frequent symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal are:

  • Quitting Benzodiazepines: carries a considerable risk of grand mal seizures. These seizures can have severe and life-threatening consequences.

It is critical to have medical monitoring 24/7 during withdrawal. This limits the risk of seizures. If seizures do occur, it is important to act quickly and adequately.

  • Anxiety and Panic: can be common during withdrawal. Intense feelings of dread and physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat and breathing difficulties may characterize these episodes.


  • Depression and Mood Changes: Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can cause depression. Symptoms include sadness, difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in activities, and hopelessness.


  • Irritability and Restlessness: Quitting benzodiazepines can increase irritability, restlessness, and agitation. This can make it hard to manage your emotions and sustain healthy relationships with others.


  • Insomnia and Sleep Disruptions: Benzodiazepine withdrawal is commonly accompanied by sleep issues, such as difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. Fatigue and lack of sleep are possible outcomes of these disturbances.


  • Cognitive Issues: For some people, benzo withdrawal syndrome comes with issues to do with focus, memory, and general cognitive function.


  • Emotional Instability: Withdrawing from benzodiazepines can cause emotional swings, instability, heightened emotional sensitivity, and instability.


  • Cognitive Disarray: Withdrawing off benzos can cause problems with thinking, such as disorientation, attention problems, and memory problems.


  • Detachment: Depersonalization is a feeling of separation from oneself and a lack of a unique identity. This can happen to some people during benzo withdrawal. This experience can be distressing and confusing.


It is important to remember that these symptoms can last for a long time. They may persist for up to a year or even longer. Nonetheless, receiving effective addiction treatment and aftercare services can help alleviate and reduce these symptoms' severity.

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Navigating Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

The role of mental health and addiction treatment professionals during the withdrawal process is critical. An addiction specialist has the expertise to manage withdrawal symptoms. They can also assess physical and mental health issues. Additionally, they can identify any coexisting illnesses that may require treatment.

A mental health specialist can assist you in many ways. They can create a personalized treatment plan, provide medications, conduct therapy sessions, and offer ongoing support during your recovery. This ensures a safe and successful transition to recovery.

It is essential to monitor a person's physical and mental health regularly. If any issues arise, immediate intervention is necessary. A carefully managed tapering process should be a priority to ensure safety and overall well-being.

Since the psychological effects of withdrawal can be debilitating and distressing, emotional support is essential. Rehabs and addiction treatment programs offer therapy and counseling services that provide individuals with emotional support. These interventions foster an environment secure for emotional expression and impart useful coping skills for overcoming withdrawal difficulties.

In addition, a rehab program is crucial in preventing relapse. It equips you with the essential tools and techniques to sustain sobriety and prevent a relapse into substance use. Generally, these programs address the underlying factors contributing to substance abuse, empowering individuals to establish robust strategies for long-term recovery.

From Drugs and Alcohol Withdrawals to Recovery: Addiction Treatment

A rehabilitation program with a good reputation offers many services. These services provide extensive help during the withdrawal phase and the journey to recovery. Standard programs and services include:

  • Medical Supervision and Detox: Medical detox involves the supervised process of removing substances from the body while managing withdrawal symptoms. During detox, medical professionals closely monitor you to ensure everything is under control. They may administer some FDA-approved drugs to alleviate discomfort and ensure safety during this critical phase.


  • Inpatient or residential rehab programs: These programs provide a structured and supportive environment for those needing intensive treatment. This is especially beneficial for those with an advanced stage of addiction.


Inpatient or residential rehab programs provide 24/7 care and supervision. This ensures that medical staff and necessary support are always available. This is important in case things get out of hand.

They offer medical care and various therapeutic interventions. These include individual counseling, group therapy, behavioral therapies, and holistic treatments.

Examples of holistic treatments are yoga and meditation. An inpatient or residential program has a structured nature. This helps you to create healthy routines, learn coping skills, and build a strong foundation for recovery.

  • Outpatient programs can be a good choice if you don't require around-the-clock supervision as an alternative to inpatient therapy. You can live at home and attend therapy, counseling, and support groups at the treatment facility. This allows you to create a schedule that gives you more flexibility.


Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs provide thorough treatment alternatives. They also give access to a network of services and community support. This is all without needing full-time residency.

This flexibility allows you to maintain your personal and professional commitments. At the same time, you can receive the support you need to progress in your recovery.


  • Aftercare programs and sober housing choices are crucial for assisting you in avoiding relapse after you complete a treatment program. A common component of aftercare services is continued counseling, therapy sessions, and involvement in support groups. These tools assist you in staying drug-free and overcoming the difficulties of life after treatment.


Sober living options provide an environment free from substances. This transitional environment allows people to live in a community with continuous peer support.

Professionals design these programs to ward off relapse. They also help to reinforce positive behaviors. Additionally, they provide the necessary support and resources for long-term recovery.


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The Bottom Line

Getting treatment from mental health and addiction professionals for a secure and effective recovery is essential. This is especially important due to the potentially fatal hazards of substance withdrawal. In conclusion, professional help is necessary for a safe recovery. Rehab programs provide crucial assistance, such as medical detox, therapy, counseling, and a caring environment.

It is important to remember that seeking professional help is the first step to leading a better and happier life. With the right support, one can overcome addiction. There is still hope; you can overcome withdrawal and embark on a long-lasting recovery with the right support.

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From Drugs and Alcohol Withdrawals to Recovery: Addiction Treatment
The Bottom Line
Navigating Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol Use Disorder: Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Death?
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

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