It wasn't too much booze that killed Amy Winehouse, but not enough. At least, that's what her family thinks felled the singer, who they say quit alcohol cold turkey three weeks before she died. We won't know the cause of her death for at least two weeks—but could "death from not drinking" really be the cause? Yes, writes Jeremy Singer-Vine for Slate's Explainer column. Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from sweating to nausea, but more serious cases can harm the nervous system, resulting in seizures or heart attacks.
About 5% of those who put a sudden end to heavy drinking and are hospitalized develop delirium tremens, or "the DTs." And 5% of those patients die from the condition, which can cause hallucinations and seizures. Another danger: Wernicke's encephalopathy, a kind of brain damage brought on by the fact that booze impedes the body's ability to absorb thiamine, or vitamin B1, from the food we eat. This can ultimately destroy brain tissue, and when untreated, kills about 20% of those who suffer from it.