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What is Cold Turkey Withdrawal?

Drug addiction and alcoholism are diseases that can cause an array of serious ramifications. One of the consequences of substance abuse is the development of drug or alcohol dependency. When an individual becomes addicted to a substance, their body becomes accustomed to the presence of the specific chemical. Because of this, if an individual quits using a substance cold turkey, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal.

Quitting cold turkey is described as an individual suddenly or abruptly stopping their substance abuse. Doing so carries significant risk if the individual was dependent on their substance of choice. Let’s take a look at what cold turkey withdrawal is, the risks of doing so, and how to safely quit abusing substances.

Why Do People Quit Drugs and Alcohol Cold Turkey?

Many people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs decide to quit cold turkey for several reasons. Instead of gradually tapering off of a substance, they immediately stop usage. Some people think it will be easier to stop at once instead of slowly cutting down. They think that they won’t be tempted to use the substance if they just cut it out of their life immediately. However, doing so is not only difficult but extremely dangerous. By quitting an addictive substance all at once, they are risking the development of dangerous and possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

What is Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal?

Withdrawal occurs when an individual quits using drugs or alcohol after a period of dependency. Dependency occurs when a person has taken a substance regularly for some time. Their body begins to rely on the substance to feel normal. Because their body is used to functioning with the drug in their system, withdrawal symptoms will appear if the drug is not taken.

Symptoms of withdrawal may be mild or severe, depending on:[1]

  • How long the individual has been using
  • What type of substance it is
  • Age
  • Physical health
  • Psychological characteristics
  • Method of withdrawal

Additionally, withdrawal symptoms typically last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. However, some symptoms such as drug and alcohol cravings can last much longer. The duration of withdrawal symptoms also depends on the factors listed above.

The Risks of Quitting Substances Cold Turkey

Quitting a substance cold turkey is only safe when the individual was using a drug that does not cause severe physical dependence. For example, getting off of cigarettes or marijuana on your own may be safe. On the other hand, quitting highly addictive drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, opiates, or benzodiazepines can cause serious side effects. If you or a loved one are addicted to a highly addictive substance, you must seek professional medical care while quitting.

The risks of quitting cold turkey are serious and possibly life-threatening. When abusing an addictive substance such as opioids, your brain becomes accustomed to the substance. When you cut your brain off of its supply abruptly, you may develop seizures, irregular heart rhythms, and other serious symptoms of withdrawal.

Unfortunately, symptoms of withdrawal (when unmanaged) may cause an individual to begin using substances again to soothe said symptoms. This is known as relapse, which is a common occurrence among individuals who quit using addictive substances without medical intervention.

Symptoms of Cold Turkey Withdrawal

As previously mentioned, quitting cold turkey can cause severe, life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal. Individuals may develop seizures or heart problems as a result. Another dangerous symptom of cold turkey withdrawal is associated with alcohol specifically. While people may believe that alcohol is less dangerous than “hard” drugs such as opioids or stimulants, evidence has proven alcohol to be one of the most dangerous substances to come off of.

Quitting alcohol cold turkey may cause the development of delirium tremens (DTs). DTs, also known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, occurs when individuals abruptly stop drinking alcohol after developing a dependency on the substance. Delirium tremens is a potentially fatal syndrome, with a mortality rate of 5%.[2] Symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal typically begin with 6 to 24 hours of the individual’s last drink.

Cold Turkey Withdrawal symptoms

Some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:[3]

  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia
  • Coma or death

When quitting any substance cold turkey, individuals can expect any or all of these symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Fatigue or difficulty sleeping
  • Sweating or clamminess
  • Muscle aches
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Runny nose
  • Goosebumps or shaking
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Depression
  • Cravings for the substance
  • Confusion
  • Delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia

If you or a loved one are addicted to a substance and want to quit, contact a professional detox program. Do not attempt to quit abusing drugs or alcohol on your own.

Attending Medically Supervised Drug Detox is the Safest Option

Now that we have gone over the dangers of cold turkey withdrawal, let’s talk about the safe way to quit abusing substances. Medically supervised drug detox programs in West Palm Beach combine medical and mental supervision to help patients overcome drug and alcohol withdrawal safely and effectively. When a patient is dealing with intense symptoms of withdrawals, they will be given safe medications and treatments to soothe the side effects they are experiencing. This allows the patient to shift their focus from their symptoms to recovery.

If you or a loved one require professional detox, contact Mandala Healing Center today. Do not attempt to quit cold turkey, we can help you begin a new way of life. Call now.