Drug and Alcohol - Relapse Prevention

Why Going Cold Turkey Is a Mistake

Quitting drugs and alcohol cold turkey is dangerous and often leads to relapse. An addiction center makes detox much safer and more likely to succeed.

Why Going Cold Turkey Is a Mistake

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 24, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

If you are tired of the effects of drug addiction in your life, you may be tempted to “go cold turkey.”

This phrase describes the sudden discontinuation of all substance use without tapering or qualified medical supervision. Though many detox methods are available, detoxing cold turkey is, unfortunately, the most popular method used by people who aren't getting treated at an addiction center.

Although it is a very good thing to desire a life free of substance abuse and to make a commitment to change, going cold turkey is counterproductive for recovery.

In fact, if you have substance use disorder (SUD), going cold turkey can lead to a dangerous, even life-threatening outcome.

Why Is Going Cold Turkey Dangerous?

The detox process can vary depending on the substances you have been using and how long you have been using them for. In general, though, detoxing will involve experiencing withdrawal symptoms as your body struggles to function without substances on which it is still dependent.

These withdrawal symptoms can include everything from nausea and vomiting to seizures and death. This is the number one reason it is essential to only detox from drugs at a treatment center with qualified medical professionals who can monitor you, keep you comfortable, and intervene if necessary.

Cold Turkey: 3 Huge Dangers

If you go cold turkey instead of detoxing at a treatment center, you put yourself at risk for the following three dangers.

#1. Serious Medical Harm

If you have an alcohol addiction, suddenly stopping drinking, especially after chronic use, can lead to death. This is because alcohol withdrawal can cause dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heart rate, and seizures. Elevated body temperature can cause liver damage and organ failure, while irregular heart rate can lead to a heart attack. Seizures can cause brain damage.

If you experience any of these symptoms after you stop using alcohol, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Quitting alcohol cold turkey can be deadly, so it is always best to consult a doctor before radically changing your drinking habits.

Detoxing under the care of a professional in a detox center is the safest way to begin your recovery. In a qualified detox center, you will have access to medical professionals who can supervise your detox as well as access to therapy and other resources that will help you stay sober.

#2. Mental Health Issues

When your body is suddenly deprived of a substance that it is dependent on, the withdrawal symptoms you experience can include psychological effects in addition to physical ones. For example, going cold turkey off substances can cause or exacerbate mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Cold turkey detox can also cause difficulty sleeping, further contributing to feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed.

#3. Increased Likelihood of Relapse

Another danger of quitting cold turkey is that it makes relapsing much more likely. When you attempt to stop using substances suddenly, you will most likely experience a range of withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to manage. These symptoms can be overwhelming if you try to handle them alone. You might be very tempted to use it again in order to stop the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

As a result, if you try to go cold turkey without medical supervision, you may end up relapsing within a few days or weeks.

Conversely, if you detox with guidance from an experienced treatment team, you can have your withdrawal symptoms managed. The treatment team may recommend tapering off substance use gradually, or they may recommend medications that can ease withdrawal symptoms. Either of these strategies can help you get through detox safely and completely, which makes it more likely that you will be able to stick to your sobriety goals in the long run.

What to Do Instead

If you are struggling with substance abuse, the first step is to seek professional help. The firmest commitment you can make to your recovery is to enter an addiction treatment center. A professional addiction treatment center uses treatment methods such as medically assisted detox to make detoxing from substances much easier. Their experienced staff will work with you to help you safely and effectively detox from drugs & alcohol.

In addition, addiction centers teach skills that will help you avoid relapse and maintain your sobriety. The variety of services and programs addiction centers offer is designed to meet your individual needs.

Don’t Risk Drug Detox on Your Own. The Forge Recovery Center Will Safely Start You on the Recovery Path Today

Going cold turkey off drugs and alcohol is dangerous. It puts people at risk of serious medical harm and even death. Additionally, going cold turkey can trigger cravings for the substance the person is trying to give up. Cravings can be extremely difficult to resist, especially without the tools offered by addiction centers.

The Forge Recovery Center will help you get off drugs & alcohol safely. We partner with many of the nation’s leading detox centers to provide effective, evidence-based detox care. With us, you won’t have to go through drug detox alone: we’ll be there every step of the way.

Reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today to learn more about medically assisted detox in a safe and supportive environment.

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