Why do people go cold turkey?
“Cold turkey” is a quick-fix method to quitting tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Rather than gradually tapering off the substance, you stop taking it immediately. The term comes from the goosebumps people sometimes get in the days after they quit, which look like the skin of a “cold turkey” in the fridge.
Some people go cold turkey because they think it will be easier to stop taking the substance right away than to taper off. They believe they won’t be as tempted to use the drug or tobacco product if they just get rid of it. But cold turkey may not be the most effective way to quit — especially for people who are dependent on a substance. Quitting too quickly can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and a powerful urge to start using the substance again.
What to expect of going ‘Cold Turkey’
The effectiveness of going cold turkey depends on what substance you’re trying to quit and your preferences. Research on quitting smoking is mixed, but some studies have found abrupt stopping to be more effective than a gradual reduction. In a 2016 study of nearly 700 smokers with tobacco addiction, 49 percent of people who quit cold turkey were still off cigarettes a month later, compared to 39 percent of those who tapered off gradually.
Support may be key. In the study, participants who quit cold turkey received help to quit. Among people who try to quit smoking cold turkey on their own, only 3 to 5 out of 100 stay off cigarettes long-term. Quitting addictive drugs such as heroin can be much harder than cold turkey. These substances cause physical changes in the brain that lead to severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them.
Is it safe to go ‘Cold Turkey’?
The safety of quitting cold turkey depends on the substance you’re trying to quit. Getting off cigarettes or alcohol may be safe to do on your own. Quitting highly addictive drugs or severe alcohol dependence can cause serious side effects, and in some cases, death. It’s better to be under the care of an addiction treatment center.
What are the risks of going ‘Cold Turkey’?
Your brain becomes accustomed to addictive drugs, such as opioids. When you cut off its supply too quickly, you can develop seizures, irregular heart rhythms, and other withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be serious or even life-threatening.
Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can drive you back into using the substance again to make them stop. Going back to using a drug or alcohol after you’ve stopped is called a relapse. After you’ve quit, your tolerance to the substance is lowered. If you do start to take it again, you’ll be more likely to overdose.
What physical and emotional changes can it cause?
Withdrawal is a collection of symptoms that involve both your body and mind. These symptoms range from mild to severe based on how long you took the drug, and how much of it you took.
Physical symptoms of withdrawal
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle aches
- Fast or slow heartbeat
- Runny nose
Mental and emotional symptoms of withdrawal
- Cravings for the substance
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Detox Programs at We Level Up Washington treatment center
When treating addiction your first step may require the help of a professional residential detox center. Some dangers can become life-threatening if you opt to “go cold turkey” at home. Detox can become much riskier than most clients realize. There are highly risky side effects correlated with do-it-yourself withdrawal without any medical support. Residential detox treatment offers detoxification support. A professional detox process is well known to provide the building blocks to long-term recovery treatment success.
In inpatient detox programs, initial integrated therapy can start. Many clients need therapy to treat underpinning reasons for their drug and alcohol addictions. In many instances, without integrated detox therapy programs, your pattern of substance abuse can more easily lead to repeated relapse.
Inpatient detox benefits extend to supervised care providing medications to minimize your withdrawal symptoms along with monitoring to ensure you progress with more comfort. Your detox team will ensure you are provided with healthy nutrition. We know many clients fail to obtain nutritious meals for a long stretch impacting their overall health. Many clients suffering from substance abuse are not well able to insure their nutrition needs. And care of their overall health can suffer as a result. The detox process can start your overall recovery not just for your addiction but body and mind too.
Cold Turkey Meaning: Cocaine Detox
Even when Cocaine is a highly addictive drug, one of its main issues is that it may be hard to recognize an addiction to it. For example, craving cocaine, even if the use or need appears every few days, and ignoring the consequences that come with it are signs of an addiction.
The psychological addiction is often the hardest part to overcome, although there are undeniable physical symptoms of addiction as well. Someone who uses cocaine frequently will develop a dependence on it, meaning they need to have it to feel normal.
Once dependence has developed, a tolerance will develop and withdrawal symptoms will occur when stopping use. Once someone becomes addicted to cocaine, it can be very hard to stop. This is because cocaine abnormally increases the level of dopamine in the brain, eventually reprogramming the brain reward system.
Withdrawal from certain substances, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, can involve severe physical withdrawal symptoms; however, cocaine detox programs bring mostly psychological withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slowed thinking
- Slowed activity or physical fatigue after activity
- Inability to experience sexual arousal
- Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
- Depression or anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams or nightmares
- Physical symptoms, such as chills, tremors, muscle aches, and nerve pain
- Increased craving for cocaine
- Increased appetite
Cold Turkey Meaning: Alcohol Detox
The alcohol detox programs can involve withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild intensity to life-threatening. The longevity and severity of your alcohol use disorder (AUD) will often play a role in the withdrawal symptoms you experience. For example, individuals who have struggled with years of heavy drinking are more likely to develop severe withdrawal symptoms like seizures or delirium tremens. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may vary significantly from one person to another but may include any of the following physical and psychological symptoms:
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
- Shaky hands
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Appetite loss
- Pale skin
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling wiped out and tired
- Mood swings
- Not being able to think clearly
- Having nightmares
- Extreme agitation
- Hallucinations (feeling, seeing, or hearing things that aren’t there)
Cold Turkey Meaning: Benzo Detox
Benzo Detox is part of the treatment process for recovering from Benzodiazepine Addiction. Benzo addiction is a disease that makes a person compulsively use benzos even though the drugs are harming their health and well-being. Quitting benzos suddenly can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms typically last up to ten days and include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased tension
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Muscular stiffness or discomfort
- Mild to moderate changes in perception
- Hand tremors
Benzo addiction treatment usually starts with a gradual detoxification process (Benzo Detox). If a person has been taking high levels of benzos for longer than eight weeks, it’s critical to wean them off the drugs slowly to decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Inpatient Detox Programs: The safest and most comfortable way to detox from benzos is with medical supervision. Inpatient detox is usually warranted when a person takes large doses of benzodiazepines for a long time. During inpatient detox, you’ll be closely monitored, and you may receive medications to help alleviate symptoms.
Once physically stable, you can transition to the next phase of treatment. While everyone’s treatment plan is unique to their needs, most people attend a combination of group and individual therapy and counseling. During rehab, you’ll learn more about the roots of addiction and develop tools to help you cope with cravings and avoid relapse.
Prescription Drug Detox
When available, successful treatment may need to incorporate several components, including detox programs, counseling, and medications. Multiple courses of treatment may be needed for the patient to make a full recovery.
The two main categories of drug use disorder treatment are behavioral treatments (such as contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy) and medications.
Behavioral treatments help patients stop drug use by changing unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior; teaching strategies to manage cravings and avoid cues and situations that could lead to relapse; or, in some cases, providing incentives for abstinence. Behavioral treatments, which may take the form of individual, family, or group counseling, also can help patients improve their relationships and their ability to function at work and in the community.
Addiction to prescription opioids can additionally be treated with medications including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These drugs can prevent other opioids from affecting the brain (naltrexone) or relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings (buprenorphine and methadone), helping the patient avoid relapse.
s medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medication to reduce the physical symptoms of withdrawal (lofexidine) is also available.
Reclaim Your Life From Going ‘Cold Turkey’, And Get Into A Detox Program
Substance Addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. Going Cold Turkey can be very dangerous, resulting in even death. We Level Up Washington treatment center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe Detox Programs. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you more about the Cold Turkey meaning by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Lindson-Hawley N, Banting M, West R, Michie S, Shinkins B, Aveyard P. Gradual Versus Abrupt Smoking Cessation: A Randomized, Controlled Noninferiority Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2016 May 3;164(9):585-92.
 Hughes JR, Keely J, Naud S. Shape of the relapse curve and long-term abstinence among untreated smokers. Addiction. 2004 Jan;99(1):29-38.
 We Level Up Treatment Center – Detox Programs
 ‘Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts’ – The National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov)