The endurings of life in modern society have made it common for people to develop addictions to drugs and alcohol. It all starts with one drink, one puff, or one sniff to get over a bad mood or event. Before you know it, several months down the line you’ve lost everything.
Fortunately, a lot of people get to a point where they feel they’ve simply had enough of drug or alcohol abuse and are ready to make the changes needed for them to get over the addiction.
Some people choose to go cold turkey because they feel it will be easier to stop using their substance of choice rather than to get off it gradually. While ambition and dedication to recovering are powerful on their own, they are simply not enough to overcome withdrawal symptoms.
Quitting substance abuse cold turkey is very difficult and can impose significant risks if your body developed a certain level of dependence on the drug.
In this article, we look into the cold turkey approach of quitting, what it means, why it’s so hard, and the risks it poses to the addict. If you want to find a rehab center to help you quit using drugs, you can learn more here.
What does It mean to Quit Cold Turkey?
The term ‘cold turkey’ comes from one of the withdrawal symptoms of quitting substance use. Sometimes, a person may get goosebumps that look like the skin of a plucked turkey after they cut themselves off their drug of choice.
As such, quitting drugs ‘cold turkey’ means putting an abrupt stop to drugs and alcohol use.
Most approaches are done at home without medical assistance or intervention. People who use this technique do so in the belief that it will be easier to stop using the substance immediately. Some believe that if they disassociate themselves with the drug entirely, they will feel less compelled to start using again.
For others, detoxing at home is the most convenient method because they don’t have medical insurance and are unable to afford treatment services.
As painful and uncomfortable the experience might be, they believe they can do it on their own without the need for specialized drug addiction treatment. Another reason for going cold turkey is because the addict prefers to do it in a familiar environment where they can feel safer and supported by friends and family.
However, quitting cold turkey should not be mistaken for detoxification. Detox is a slow process of clearing drugs from the body in a safe and controlled setting. Detoxing allows the body enough time to purge physical cravings and the freedom to go through several uncomfortable feelings and changes brought about by the body breaking free of the drug.
Why Quitting Cold Turkey Is So Hard?
If you’re trying to quit drugs, cold turkey may seem like a fast and easy option at first. You get to go through the process privately at home without subjecting yourself to judgment or scrutiny from people.
However, the technique is very difficult to do. Factors that make it hard include:
- Withdrawal symptoms.
- Intense cravings.
- The drug of choice.
- The level of addiction.
- Co-occurring mental health conditions.
If you’re addicted to alcohol or a particular drug, your body has likely developed an undesirable mental and physical dependency on the substance. At this point, both your brain and body need those chemicals to sustain a level of equilibrium.
Once you go cold turkey, your body begins to try and go back to its non-addicted state by purging itself of the drug or alcohol substances. This purging process produces intense withdrawal symptoms and physical cravings that can affect you emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
Examples of highly common physical and mental withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, nausea, depression, seizures, hallucinations, vomiting, mood imbalances, agitation, mental fog, insomnia, irregular heart rate, and changes in blood pressure.
The type of drug involved also makes it hard for the addict to recover from their addiction through the technique. The drug your body is dependent on will determine the withdrawal symptoms you experience and the degree of severity.
Drugs such as heroin and benzos are highly addictive and experts recommend that addicts of these drugs refrain from using the approach since they can lead to highly dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The co-occurring mental health condition of the addict can also complicate drug withdrawal and can lead to a highly unpredictable behavioral response from the addict.
The severity of the addiction also makes it difficult for addicts to achieve success from the method. The degree of dependence on a drug as well as the amount of time you use the drug will determine how your body and brain will respond to being cut off.
Simply put, the more severe the addiction, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms will be.
Is It Safe to Quit Cold Turkey?
Quitting cold turkey may not be the safest or most effective approach to staying sober, especially for people who have developed a dependency on a particular substance. Quitting too soon can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and a strong urge to resume substance abuse.
In certain cases, the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that they cause life-threatening medical conditions such as seizures and heart problems as explained earlier in this article. Even substances that pose a low risk of addiction such as nicotine can cause highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
This is not to say that quitting cold turkey cannot be successful. The technique can be highly effective with the right support system and the rate at which the addict can overcome the withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms last for varying lengths and some people can get past the withdrawal period faster than those who decide to quit gradually. But if a person is addicted to potentially harmful drugs such as meth or heroin, cold turkey may not be the best idea.
Drug Addiction Treatment:
Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is not an easy thing to do. But this doesn’t deter people from going cold turkey without any external help or medical intervention.
While it may seem like a fast and easy solution, a medically managed drug addiction treatment approach is highly recommended. Drug addiction treatment centers are equipped with professionally trained staff who are committed to helping addicts recover and live a life of sobriety.
If you or someone you care about needs help with their addiction, get in touch with a professional drug addiction treatment facility to help you achieve a successful recovery altogether.