Why You Shouldn’t Quit Drugs and Alcohol Cold Turkey

by | Feb 5, 2021 | Recovery | 0 comments

If you’re particularly inspired to get sober, you might be considering the idea of quitting “cold turkey” without professional assistance or supervision. Unfortunately, quitting cold turkey isn’t the answer for most substances, including street drugs, alcohol, and prescription drugs. A cold turkey approach may put you in danger and significantly reduce the chances of a successful recovery.

What Does Quitting “Cold Turkey” Mean?

Quitting drugs and alcohol cold turkey refers to abruptly stopping the use of drugs or alcohol without any medical supervision or support. This means that a person decides to stop using these substances on their own without seeking any medical help, medication, or support from addiction treatment programs or professionals.

The term “cold turkey” is believed to have originated from the physical symptoms that resemble a cold turkey that someone may experience when suddenly stopping drug or alcohol use. These symptoms can include anxiety, tremors, insomnia, sweating, and nausea.

The Appeal of Quitting Cold Turkey

It’s understandable why some people think quitting cold turkey is the best option. Firstly, it’s the most affordable option – you don’t have to pay for a rehabilitation facility, therapy, detox, or recovery programs. Additionally, you get all the credit for getting better “all by yourself.” You get to prove to everyone that you had the strength to quit independently.

In reality, these are both flimsy excuses that simply don’t hold up. Firstly, your life and your recovery are both worth investing in. A rehabilitation center increases the chances of a successful recovery, so it’s worth the price.

Secondly, addiction is a disease of the brain, so your mind and body are working against you. You need professional help to get the tools and resources you need to get better. However, even with this help, you’ll still ultimately be the one who takes charge and gets clean.

Additionally, quitting cold turkey comes with unnecessary risks to your health and your chances of a successful recovery.

4 Reasons Why Quitting Substances Cold Turkey is the Wrong Choice

1. Detox Doesn’t Have to be So Hard

Detox is challenging. Your body has become reliant on the substance and it “rebels” against you when you cut off its supply. Unfortunately, these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can increase the chances that you’ll relapse.

When you detox in a rehabilitation facility, you may be given medications to reduce the severity of your detox symptoms. This makes your detox process a little less challenging, which increases the chances of successful detox.

2. Medical Risks

The most concerning part about quitting cold turkey is the medical risks involved. Your body can go into shock when you cut off the supply of a substance it’s become reliant on. Some individuals detoxing from alcohol are at risk of delirium tremens, which can bring on seizures, hallucinations, and chest pain. Individuals detoxing from benzodiazepines (Valium, Klonopin, halcyon) can also have life-threatening complications such as seizures, tremors, and hallucinations.

A professional rehabilitation center will examine you to determine if a medical detox is necessary. Additionally, if you choose an inpatient program, you’ll be monitored 24/7 with medical staff nearby if you require help.

3. Smoother Transition From Detox to Recovery

After a successful detox, you can transition into the next stage of recovery. There are five common stages to recovery:

  1. Acknowledgment of addiction
  2. Awareness of addiction
  3. Recovery exploration
  4. Start addiction recovery
  5. Ongoing aftercare and recovery

When your detox is over, you’ll transition into stage four: starting your addiction recovery.

If you were to quit cold turkey at home, you wouldn’t necessarily know what to do after detox. This feeling of uncertainty can put you at a high risk of relapse as you struggle to figure out your next step.

Alternatively, when you’re working with a professional recovery program, you’re naturally taken into the next steps. You will start addiction education, therapy programs, and support groups. You’re guided through a process that has worked for thousands of people. At a time when you feel uncertain and vulnerable, a professional program can act as a support system and a guiding hand.

4. Doesn’t Address the Root Cause of Your Addiction

In comparison, a professional facility will help you address your addiction head-on. You’ll go through therapy to understand what led you down a substance abuse path and learn coping mechanisms, so you don’t repeat past mistakes. You may also find out important insights about yourself. For example, therapy might lead to a co-occurring mental health condition diagnosis. This is highly common as 53% of drug abusers and 30% of alcohol abusers have at least one mental health condition. If this applies to you, part of your substance abuse recovery is getting treatment for your co-occurring condition too.

Lastly, you’ll meet other people who want to stay clean and develop a like-minded support group. These people can help inspire you and show you what a different life looks like.

Medical Detox: A Healthier, More Holistic Alternative

Medical detoxification, also known as medical detox, is a process of removing harmful substances from the body while managing the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Medical detox is typically performed in a specialized facility or hospital under the supervision of medical professionals who monitor the patient’s health and provide medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Generally, the length of time needed for medical detox varies depending on the substance and the severity of the addiction.

Why Is Medical Detox Better Than Quitting Cold Turkey?

Medical detox is generally considered better than quitting substances cold turkey because it is safer, more effective, and can provide individuals with the necessary support and resources to manage withdrawal symptoms.

When someone abruptly stops using drugs or alcohol, they can experience severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening, especially for people who have been using these substances for a long time or in high doses. Medical detox programs provide 24-hour medical supervision, medication-assisted treatment, and a safe environment to manage withdrawal symptoms.

In addition, medical detox can provide individuals with access to:

  • Support groups
  • Therapy
  • Resources that can help individuals manage cravings, develop coping skills, and prevent relapse.

This type of support can be crucial to maintaining sobriety over the long term.

Quitting substances cold turkey can be dangerous and may lead to relapse if a person is not adequately prepared to manage withdrawal symptoms or the emotional and psychological challenges of quitting. Seeking medical supervision and support through a detox program can provide a more structured and successful approach to quitting drugs or alcohol.

What Addictions Can Medical Detox Help Treat?

Medical detox is an effective treatment for many types of addiction, including:

  • Alcohol use disorder. Alcohol addiction can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, so medical detox is necessary to safely remove the substance from the body.
  • Benzodiazepine use disorder. Benzodiazepine addiction, which is common among individuals who use drugs like Xanax or Valium, can also lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, and anxiety, making medical detox necessary.
  • Opioid use disorder. Opioid addiction, which includes prescription painkillers and heroin, is another type of addiction that can be safely and effectively treated with medical detox. Withdrawal from opioids can be extremely uncomfortable and even life-threatening, so medical detox is necessary to manage the symptoms and ensure safe and successful detoxification.
  • Stimulant use disorder, which includes drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, can also be treated with medical detox, which can help manage the symptoms of withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.

Benefits Of Medical Detox

Medical detox has numerous benefits for individuals struggling with addiction. One of the primary benefits is that it provides a safe and controlled environment for individuals to withdraw from addictive substances. This is especially important for those addicted to drugs that can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, as medical professionals can closely monitor their health and intervene if necessary. Medical detox can also help manage physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea, headaches, and body aches, making the detoxification process more comfortable for individuals. Additionally, it can reduce the risk of relapse by helping you overcome the initial withdrawal period and avoid returning to addictive substances. Overall, medical detox can set you on a path to long-term recovery by safely removing harmful substances from the body and managing withdrawal symptoms, paving the way for successful addiction treatment and long-time sobriety.

Often, asking for help is the strongest thing you can do. Bridges of Hope can help you on your path to recovery. Remember that you don’t have to do this alone.