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‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis May Have Died Of Alcohol Withdrawal

It may have been what killed Amy WInehouse, too.

Image via Flickr user beautiful hustler.

On Saturday, the world lost a talented actor: 39-year-old Nelsan Ellis, best known as Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s “True Blood.” Ellis suffered from drug and alcohol abuse for years and was in and out of rehab — but his sobriety didn’t last. Tragically, Ellis died of heart failure during an attempt to quit drinking without medical supervision.

“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,” Ellis’ father said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. The symptoms surrounding his death are consistent with those of delirium tremens (DTs). According to Alcohol Health and Research, the DTs can be fatal for 5-25% of alcoholics who experience them during withdrawal.

Image via Flickr user (cc) Fion Kidney

Ellis’ death reveals a seldom-discussed problem with alcoholism: It can be fatal even during a brief period of sobriety. Alcohol is toxic to the body and changes the user’s metabolism and central nervous system. Alcoholics slowly adapt to the new toxic environment, which can cause serious problems when the alcohol is removed from their systems. “Your body develops a homeostasis with alcohol,” Dr. Robert Schwartz, chairman of family medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told Live Science. “As soon as you take it away, you’re upsetting that balance,” Schwartz said.

In 2011, the father of late singer Amy Winehouse revealed his daughter may have died from DTs as well. In an interview with NBC, Mitch Winehouse said his daughter suffered a stroke while attempting to detox by herself and “there was nobody there to rescue her.” Mitch Winehouse also said his daughter was taking Librium at the time, a drug used to reduce the chances of seizures and anxiety during alcohol detox.

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