Is it true that alcohol is the only "drug" one can die from during a drug-withdrawal? Someone recently told me they heard this from rehab, but it doesn't resonate as true... but then again, I'm not expert in health matters.

What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

3 Answers 3


In addition to alcohol, benzodiazepines and the opiates (rare), another class of drugs that can cause lethal withdrawal symptoms is the barbiturates. In fact, they present the most dangerous withdrawal of all. Their use has largely been replaced with the benzodiazepines, so abuse is much less common today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.


Withdrawing from Barbiturates

Within 2 to 3 months of consistent barbiturate use, a person can develop a tolerance and addiction. Once this has happened, it is important to understand that a doctor or rehab for barbiturates should be [employed] to come off of the medication. As a “GABAergic” drug; barbiturate withdrawal can produce life threatening effects, like seizures, which are similar to those of delirium tremens and benzodiazepine withdrawals. However, the barbiturate withdrawal can be even more severe than the aforementioned making it one of the most dangerous withdrawals out of every known drug. Like benzodiazepines, the longer acting the barbiturate drug is, the less severe the withdrawal will be.

  • 2
    Touche. Thank you. Barbiturate use in my country is extremely low, street or prescription, so it's very seldom discussed or comes to mind. You are quite correct. The only two I have ever suffered are alcohol and diazepam. The latter with a sudden stop after 30mg a day for about a year, and all I felt was extreme anxiety and slight flu like symptoms. I'm certain that barbs would in fact be worse; closer to alcohol, although they pharmacokinetics are quite different.
    – ProfK
    Feb 15, 2017 at 2:21

American Addiction Centers

The symptoms are

  • Stage 1: Anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain characterize this stage, which begins 8 hours after the last drink.
  • Stage 2: High blood pressure, increased body temperature, unusual heart rate, and confusion come with this stage, which begins 24-72 hours after the last drink.
  • Stage 3: Hallucinations, fever, seizures, and agitation come with this stage, which tends to begin 72+ hours after the last drink

It is stage 3 that can kill you. Fever and seizure can kill you. Stage 3 / DT

What is scary is you can have very few stage 1 and stage 2 symptoms and still develop stage 3 symptoms. A seizure is not directly related to other symptoms.

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs from which to withdraw.

Clearly it is not the only drug withdrawal you can die from.


No, opiate withdrawal can also sometimes be fatal for a variety of reasons, but it is very uncommon, and withdrawal from some benzodiazepines can trigger seizures that have a small chance of a fatal outcome.

Yet alcohol withdrawal without medical supervision and possibly medication is by far the most dangerous, and probably has caused more fatalities than all other withdrawals combined.

This coming from me that is a recovering alcoholic that has had two withdrawal seizures, or "rum fits", and it is especially these than can easily trigger a stroke or heart attack. I was just very lucky to be hospitalized for the first one, and given Valium, while the second one was a lot milder, and just temporarily paralyzed my legs.

  • This is incorrect, or at least incomplete. Alcohol and opiates are not the only drug withdrawals that can be lethal. In fact, you left out the most dangerous one of all.
    – Carey Gregory
    Feb 14, 2017 at 0:56
  • @CareyGregory Which one?
    – ProfK
    Feb 14, 2017 at 5:04
  • See my answer..
    – Carey Gregory
    Feb 14, 2017 at 15:00

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