The Facts About Quitting “Cold Turkey”

Some individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol believe that they can quit at any time. It’s easy enough to think that quitting just requires a little self-discipline and time. Yet, going “cold turkey” rarely leads to a successful recovery. Often, the addict cannot manage the overwhelming side effects that occur during the cold turkey detox process and end up using again to relieve the pain and cravings. With each attempt, side effects of detox can become more serious and relapses can become increasingly severe.

The Dangers of Withdrawal

When an individual stops drinking or using drugs on their own, withdrawal symptoms can appear quickly. And, they can be very unpredictable, scary and even life-threatening. Common symptoms include tremors, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, headache, increased heart rate, sweating, irritability, confusion, insomnia, and nightmares. The most severe form of withdrawal is known as delirium tremens (DTs) with dangerous side effects that can include hallucinations, seizures, extreme confusion, and a high fever. This condition is considered to be a medical emergency and requires immediate help. Often, symptoms worsen over two or three days and can persist for several weeks.

Medical Detox Program

Because of the dangers of withdrawal, the best choice for anyone who wants to quit using is to seek professional addiction treatment. For many, this means entering a medical detox program like ours here at Serenity at Summit.

The goal of treatment is to keep the individual comfortable and symptoms managed during this first step of addiction recovery. While professional addiction treatment can help anyone who is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, it is particularly beneficial for those who are more likely to experience severe complications of detox, such as those who have:

  • Bad health
  • A diagnosis of a co-occurring medical or psychiatric disorder
  • Poor nutritional status
  • An addiction to more than one substance

When to Never Go Cold Turkey

Cold Turkey should always be avoided, but when any of the following situations are applicable, going cold turkey should never be attempted.

Extreme Intoxication – Respiration and cardiovascular function must be monitored continuously until alcohol levels drop to a safe range.

Three or more unsuccessful attempt to detox – Complications are far more likely in someone who has attempted multiple withdrawals.

A history of seizures or DTs during withdrawal – Medication may be required to avoid seizures.

Unstable psychiatric condition – When alcohol or drugs are used as a form of self-medication, eliminating the substance can lead to a substantial increase in the symptoms of a co-occurring mental illness.

The Benefits of a Medically Supervised Drug and Alcohol Detox Program

Every individual responds differently to detox. With an individualized detox program run by an experienced, highly-qualified medical, clinical and holistic team, specific symptoms can be managed and the groundwork can be set to successfully transition to a program focused on lasting recovery.

Have you or a loved one attempted to quit drugs or alcohol by going cold turkey?

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