Singer Amy Winehouse may have died from detoxing from alcohol too abruptly, her family allegedly claims in a story in the British tabloid The Sun.
While toxicology tests on Winehouse, who died Saturday, are still pending, her family supposedly told the newspaper that although the singer's doctor told her to stop drinking gradually, she might have ignored the advice and gone cold-turkey, a drastic process her body may not have been able to handle.
Can death result from a cold-turkey alcohol detox? Yes, says Dr. Karen Miotto, medical director of the UCLA Alcoholism and Addiction Medicine Service and an addiction psychiatrist, who spoke hypothetically about the situation, not specifically about Winehouse.
Cold-turkey alcohol detox may be dangerous for some people. "Often in our field we'll hear from people that they told their spouse not to drink and threw all the alcohol in the house away," Miotto says. "That's not a good idea -- they need to be medically evaluated first." Medication may be necessary to help wean the person safely off alcohol to prevent harmful and possibly fatal seizures as well as other severe symptoms such as delerium tremens. Other considerations for detox include how much and how long the person has been drinking, if there have been detox attempts in the past, if there is a history of prior seizures, and if other drugs or medications are being taken.