Everyone who has faced addiction has wondered how to quit drugs—and has most likely tried to quit ‘cold turkey,’ as they say. Quitting cold turkey means quitting abruptly, without a gradual reduction in how much or how often you use drugs or alcohol. While most people who quit drugs or alcohol don’t receive any treatment, it is never a good idea to go it alone. Not only could you face uncomfortable or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, quitting cold turkey most likely won’t last in the long run. You might be able to fight your withdrawal symptoms or cravings for a few days or months, but unless you address your reasons for using, you’re likely to relapse.
Unfortunately, most people with drug problems only go to rehab once they’ve already tried and failed to quit drugs on their own. “Every addict has tried to stop cold turkey,” says Ryan Johnston, Director of Operations at Cornerstone Recovery Center. “‘Cold turkey’ just means you’re not going to use today. Your best chance of staying sober is to pull yourself out of that environment and get help from a professional.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cold turkey doesn’t work, with research showing that “combining treatment medications with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients.” For alcohol addiction, statistics show that getting help through becoming involved in AA doubled recovery rates (which meant, a longer period of abstinence. Not only is treatment and relapse prevention essential to helping people deal with the day-to-day emotional struggles of resisting the urge to use, but it can also be key to delving into the reasons why someone began using in the first place—all of which helps toward long-term sobriety.
Quitting cold turkey is dangerous, no matter what drug you’re addicted to using. Detox can be fatal if not treated by a medical professional. In fact, alcohol withdrawal syndrome—which can be life-threatening—can affect not only people who have been drinking heavily for years, but those who have been abusing alcohol for only months, even weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the drug. Marijuana withdrawal includes insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and decreased appetite. Withdrawal from cocaine can include paranoia, depression, insomnia, and lethargy. Opioid withdrawal symptoms, which can be the most difficult to manage cold turkey, can include vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, chills, and depression.
While most withdrawal symptoms are temporary and not life-threatening, some symptoms associated with alcohol and opioid withdrawal can be fatal. These include delirium tremens, seizures, dehydration, heart attack, and suicidal thoughts. Some prescription medications like benzodiazepines can have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, hallucinations, and psychosis.
Because quitting drugs cold turkey can be dangerous, your best option is to get professional treatment. Not only will you receive medications to help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but you’ll get drug abuse counseling to help you maintain your sobriety for the long term. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse or dependence, our experienced admission counselors are on hand to help place you in a recovery program that is right for you. Call us directly at 888-711-0354 or contact us online today.