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Dangers of Quitting Drugs Cold Turkey

When you finally reach the point where enough is enough when it comes to drug use, you’re ready to make the changes necessary to recover from the disease of addiction. However, ambition and willpower are not all it takes to overcome the cravings and withdrawal linked to drug addiction. Trying to quit cold turkey without any help or control puts you in danger. You risk severe relapse, and quitting cold turkey can have also have hazardous or even fatal outcomes.

What Does Quitting Cold Turkey Mean and Why Is It So Hard?

Quitting cold turkey simply means to stop using drugs abruptly and without help. Most cold turkey methods are attempted at home without outside intervention or medical assistance. Quitting cold turkey should not be confused with the addiction treatment known as detoxification. Detox allows you to slowly purge drugs from your system, usually in a safe, controlled environment.

The cold turkey method is so difficult for two main reasons — cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If you’re addicted to drugs, your body has developed an unhealthy physical and mental dependence on a particular substance. In fact, your body and brain begin to need those chemicals to maintain their equilibrium. If you abruptly quit, your body starts purging itself of those substances, attempting to return to its non-addicted state. This process produces intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can impact you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Is Quitting Drugs Cold Turkey Bad for You?

Cold turkey detox may seem like a quick, easy option if you’re trying to quit drugs. You get to go through the process in the privacy of your own home without the scrutiny or judgment of others. However, the cold turkey method comes with many risks that can jeopardize your health and ability to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Drug addiction as a chronic disease has a high relapse rate. Self-detox without guidance, assistance or support intensifies that risk. The cravings make it difficult to refrain from using drugs. Also, withdrawal symptoms can be so intense that it seems better to return to drug use to make them go away. Relapse can be extremely dangerous — even deadly.

What Factors Impact Your Success With the Cold Turkey Method?

An abundance of factors influence whether or not the cold turkey method will work for you:

  • The drug you’re addicted to: The drug your body is dependent on makes a difference in the severity and type of withdrawal symptoms you experience. Drugs like heroin, opioids and benzos are highly addictive and can lead to potentially serious withdrawal.
  • The severity of your addiction: The more of a drug you use and the length of time you use it determines how heavily dependent your body and brain will be on that substance. The more severe your addiction, the more intense withdrawal will be.
  • Co-occuring mental health or medical conditions: Psychological issues and medical conditions can complicate drug withdrawal. These factors make cold turkey detox more unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

What Happens to Your Body When You Suddenly Stop Using Drugs?

If you struggle with active drug addiction, your body is likely dependent on that drug. When you stop using, withdrawal symptoms and cravings will undoubtedly arise. Withdrawal side effects can range from mild to potentially lethal. Some of the most common psychological and physical symptoms of drug withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Mental fogginess
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramping or pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Irregular heart rate

Cold turkey withdrawal from drugs can also include dangerous side effects like:

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Tachycardia
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma

Get Help From the Medical Professionals at Gateway Foundation

The detoxification process can be unpredictable, and you may not be able to successfully manage the severe side effects of withdrawal on your own. A medically supervised drug addiction treatment program can keep you safe while also minimizing your risk of relapse.

At Gateway Foundation, we want to ensure your safe, successful recovery through medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based methods. We offer a number of therapies and services to help you build healthy habits and make positive life changes. Instead of quitting drugs cold turkey, contact us today to learn about our personalized treatment programs.

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