What To Consider Before Quitting Alcohol & Drugs Cold Turkey

What happens when you quit drugs or alcohol cold turkey? Learn about common side effects & what to consider before trying to stop immediately.

What happens when you try and quit drugs or alcohol using the cold turkey method? Learn about withdrawal side effects and what to consider before trying to quit immediately.


Where does the term “cold turkey” come from you ask?


The term cold turkey refers to a quick-fix approach to quitting tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or any addictive substance. If you are choosing not to taper off a substance, and you stop taking it immediately, then you are effectively quitting cold turkey. Sometimes for days after a person quits a substance, they will get goosebumps that look like the skin of a plucked turkey or chicken. Now that you know the cold turkey origin - let's take a closer look at the real-life impacts of this common method.


Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey

This may seem strange to hear, but do not stop drinking before consulting a professional. Alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening, and the severity of your withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the amount you have been drinking, the length of time you have been drinking, and any existing medical conditions you may have. If you have been drinking for any length of time, your body and brain have become dependent on your personal alcohol usage patterns. When you abruptly quit drinking, you rob your body of the time it needs to adjust to functioning without alcohol, which can result in shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. But there are also more serious withdrawal symptoms that can trigger life-threatening health complications. A long-term or heavy drinker may experience acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which can cause you to lose consciousness, develop delirium tremens, and even experience seizures. Therefore, it is important to seek out detox programs or rehabs to assist you during the process of quitting.

Source: Freepik

Should You Quit Heroin Cold Turkey?

Unlike quitting alcohol, it can be extremely dangerous to quit heroin cold turkey and you should consult a professional to assist you during the process. If you have been using heroin, over time your brain becomes dependent on it, which makes it extremely hard to quit heroin cold turkey.


On top of the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms you will experience when quitting heroin, you will also experience extreme cravings, and this will make it almost impossible to quit cold turkey without relapsing. Medical detox can help you experience relief from withdrawal symptoms and keep you safe from life-threatening health complications. Some medications that can be given to you while you are in a detox program could also help prevent shock to your body caused by quitting heroin.


Cold Turkey Method & Other Substances

Trying to give up any substance that we have been using for any length of time or in large quantities, is difficult indeed, and especially when our bodies have become reliant upon them to function. You can feel withdrawal symptoms from using street drugs, abusing prescription medications, habitually using caffeinated products, and tobacco in any of its forms. Here are some common side effects or withdrawal symptoms you may encounter when you stop cold turkey.


  • Agitation/anxiety
  • Muscle aches/sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Increased tearing/runny nose
  • Insomnia/yawning
  • Abdominal cramping/diarrhea


Keep in mind, that even though these withdrawal symptoms may not seem life-threatening, if you have any other pre-existing health conditions, seeking advice from a trained professional is the best way to begin quitting, whether you use a cold turkey program or not.


Encouraging Statistics

  • Nearly 1 in 12 Americans have an addiction to both drugs and alcohol.
  • Of the 73% of addicts who completed inpatient treatment, 21% remained sober after 5 years.
  • Of the 43% of addicts who completed outpatient treatment, 18% remained sober after 5 years.


Source: Freepik


Where You Can Get Help

If you are here because someone you love is in need of an intervention to help them begin their recovery journey, we at Compassionate Interventions are here to assist you. Our team of experienced interventionists is dedicated to help you determine if an intervention is appropriate and to help guide you during the process. Please call us at (844) 243-8358 with any questions you may have, or you can email Ben at benjamin@compassionateinterventions.com.


If you or someone you love is seeking help through our detox program, we at Pacific Crest Trail Detox are here to assist with the struggles of physical and psychological withdrawal from alcohol and/or substance abuse. We will provide you with:


  • Restored physical and mental health
  • Regaining control
  • Identifying triggers
  • Learning coping mechanisms
  • Professional emotional and medical support
  • Quality medication management


If you would like to know more about our detox program, please give us a call at (844) 692-7528.


If you or someone you love is looking to continue their recovery journey with rehab, we at Oregon Trail Recovery are here for you as well. At OTR we offer PHP, IOP, and OP programs that provide our clients safe, structured treatment environments, as well as trained and caring staff to assist you along the way. Please give us a call at (855) 770-0577 and we will help you find the best recovery program to meet your needs.

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