acquiesce - August 17th, 2020

The Dangers of Going Cold Turkey

What is ‘Cold Turkey’?

Cold turkey is a method of quitting addictive substances or behaviour by stopping taking or doing it immediately, as opposed to gradually coming off or away from it. Some people believe going cold turkey makes quitting easier as removing the substance from their lives in one swift action will stop the temptation to use it.

Where does the term Cold Turkey come from?

In the days after people quit using a substance that they are addicted to, they may get goosebumps which are similar to the skin of a cold turkey in the fridge and that is where the name cold turkey comes from.

Is Going Cold Turkey Effective?

For some people, going cold turkey proves to be very effective with the right kind of help but also depends on the substance they are trying to quit. The substance most commonly quit using the cold turkey method is nicotine that is in cigarettes. In a 2016 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, 49% of the 700 smokers with a tobacco addiction who quit cold turkey were still off cigarettes a month later, compared to 39% of those who tapered off gradually.

However, for some people it is much less successful, especially for those with drug or alcohol addictions. This is because the withdrawal symptoms of drugs and alcohol are much more severe than those of nicotine and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Low mood or mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sweating
  • Aches and pains
  • Shaking
  • Retching
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens (rare)

Is Going Cold Turkey Safe?

Due to the way in which your body can become dependent on drugs and alcohol, cutting off the supply too quickly could result in more extreme withdrawal symptoms including seizures and even life threatening syndromes such as Delirium Tremens. Not only are these risks harmful, but you are also more likely to start using the substance again if the withdrawal symptoms are too intense and you are unsupervised. This is called a relapse. 

Although some people swear by going cold turkey, it doesn’t work for everyone. It is recommended by the NHS that you seek professional help from a treatment centre when quitting something you are addicted to. 

At Acquiesce, we can arrange a detoxification placement for you which supervises the quitting process and the withdrawal that follows, helping you to manage the symptoms and avoid a relapse. Our Rehab and Dayhab programmes can then help you maintain your abstinence.

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