Alcohol Addiction: Out From The Shadows Of Opioid Abuse

July 13, 2017

While opioid abuse is getting the headlines, the recent death of actor Nelsan Ellis confirms that alcohol addiction remains a major problem in society.

“Alcohol use is often overshadowed by the opioid epidemic, but each year, approximately 88,000 die from alcohol-related causes, as compared to around 40,000 deaths from opioid overdoses,” said J. Craig Allen, MD, Medical Director of Rushford.

Ellis, best known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Bloodseries, died Saturday, July 8, from alcohol withdrawal.

According to a statement from his family, Ellis struggled for years with alcohol and drug addiction, and after several stints in rehab, was attempting to withdraw from alcohol on his own. He was 39 years old.

“Detoxing from alcohol is very difficult – not only do you feel horribly, physically ill, but you can also develop high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, seizures, and other complications that can lead to death,” Dr. Allen said. “No one should attempt to detox from alcohol alone. Talk to a healthcare professional because it can be a life threatening situation.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, 6.2 percent of American adults – more than 15 million individuals – suffer from an alcohol use disorder and millions more engage in high-risk binge drinking behavior. Alcohol is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., behind only tobacco use.

Despite how common alcohol use is, those who struggle with alcoholism still suffer from shame and stigma.

“[Ellis] was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life,” said the statement released by his family. “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 Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network offers a wide range of services for adults and teens struggling with alcohol addiction, including inpatient and residential detox, intermediate residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and support groups. For more information, visit here.