The Meadows Blog

Friday, 14 July 2017 17:21

Death of ‘True Blood’ Actor Nelsan Ellis Highlights the Danger of Detoxing Alone

Nelsan Ellis, who portrayed Lafayette Reynolds in all seven seasons of HBO’s hit series True Blood, recently died from heart failure due to alcohol withdrawal complications. The fan-favorite was only 39-years old. The circumstances of Ellis’ death were shared by his manager, who confirmed that his heart failure was a result of attempting to quit drinking on his own.


Ellis’ family issued a statement about his long struggle with drugs and alcohol, saying “After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own." During Ellis' withdrawal from alcohol, he suffered from a blood infection causing his kidneys to shut down and blood pressure to drop. The actor spent four days in a hospital before he died.  

Managing detox at home may seem tempting to someone who struggles with addiction, especially to someone who’s spent time in and out of rehab. But the process of detoxing without professional supervision can be extremely perilous, or, as in Ellis’ case, can even be fatal.

Why Sudden Alcohol Withdrawal can be Highly Dangerous

As most of us probably know, alcohol changes the way our brains work. It blocks certain chemicals and slows the function of our brains, resulting in the calming effect that makes it so attractive. Over time, deep chemical changes render the brain unable to function properly without the substance. When this happens, a person develops a dependence on the substance or an “addiction.” When someone who’s developed a dependence on alcohol attempts to quit ‘cold turkey’ their body reacts in various ways, and repeated relapse leads to worsening withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the common, more minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Heart palpitations

The most dangerous side effect associated with alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens (DTs). DTs can involve severe visual hallucinations, uncontrollable sweating, an abnormally fast heart rate, high blood pressure, and fever. Not getting help from a professional at this point can lead to heart attack and death.

The length of alcohol use, amount consumed per episode and individual reactions to alcohol all contribute to the severity of one’s detox, but the longer one uses, the greater the change to the brain and body.

To help others who may be struggling with the same addictions that afflicted Ellis, his family released the following:

Nelsan's father has bravely agreed for me to share the circumstances of Nelsan's heart failure. Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.

On the morning of Saturday, July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul. He was a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and a great friend to those that were lucky enough to know him. 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 serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.

The Meadows Model is unparalleled in producing successful outcomes for recovery and a proven vanguard for treating both trauma and addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholic or drug addiction, please, don’t wait to call us: 800-244-4949.

Read 1500 times Last modified on Friday, 14 July 2017 17:34

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