Clay Cutts, L.M.S.W. | Is it a Good Idea to Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

Is it a Good Idea to Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

June 27, 2013

Quit Drinking Cold TurkeyThe term “quit drinking cold turkey“, or more specifically “cold turkey” has it’s origin in addiction withdrawal. The phrase describes the skin’s reaction to heroin withdrawal. As an addict stops using the drug, blood is drawn toward the internal organs, thereby leaving the skin to resemble a cold, plucked turkey.

Though the same physiological symptoms do not appear when we quit drinking cold turkey, some dangers should be considered. The risk depends upon the degree to which the drinker is chemically addicted to alcohol.

When a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking they will experience some negative side effects.

Quit Drinking Cold Turkey: Minor Effects

It may not be completely appropriate to say that someone who tries to stop drinking on their own can go through anything “minor”. Even these symptoms on the lower end of the spectrum can be quite uncomfortable.

These symptoms can include…

  • Mild to moderate shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Increased Blood Pressure

Does this sound familiar? Yes, even an occasional drinker who over-indulges can go through withdrawal. A “hangover” is actually mild form of alcohol withdrawal.

Although these symptoms are uncomfortable and irritating, they are not necessarily dangerous. But they are often accompanied by the “craving” for more alcohol, making the decision to continue abstinence much more difficult to make.

Quit Drinking Cold Turkey: More Serious Effects

A heavy drinker who tries to quit cold turkey can also undergo more serious effects. During the first day or two, hallucinations may begin. They can be visual, but may also involve sound and smell. These hallucinations can last as long as several weeks.

When I quit drinking I experienced hallucinations and they were terrifying. For me, I saw a bottle of liquor floating in the air talking to me. It said something like “hey…what’s up…don’t forget about me”. Thank goodness this only happened twice before disappearing.

During this same time-frame, an heavy drinker can experience seizures and/or convulsions. Without medical treatment, withdrawal can become very dangerous at this point.

Things can get worse still for a heavy drinker on this path. They may go into delirium tremens, or DTs. The symptoms of DTs include profound confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, hyperactivity, and extreme cardiovascular disturbances. Once DTs begin, there is no known medical treatment to stop them. Grand Mal seizures, heart attacks and stroke can occur during the DTs, all of which can be fatal. During this same time-frame, an heavy drinker can experience seizures and/or convulsions. Without medical treatment, withdrawal can become very dangerous at this point.

Things can get worse still for a heavy drinker on this path. They may go into delirium tremens, or DTs. The symptoms of DTs include profound confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, hyperactivity, and extreme cardiovascular disturbances. Once DTs begin, there is no known medical treatment to stop them. Grand Mal seizures, heart attacks and stroke can occur during the DTs, all of which can be fatal.

Quit Drinking the “Safe” Way

Luckily for us, medical interventions for safely dealing with alcohol withdrawal have improved to the point of being almost completely safe. Modern detoxification centers are very adept at recognizing acute withdrawal symptoms and easing a drinker through the painful and terrifying process.

The process is NOT without risks, nor is it easy. Remember that by the time we walk through the doors of a detox center, we have done significant damage to our bodies. If you are going to quit drinking cold turkey, medical detox is, by far, the safer path to take.

Quit drinking cold turkey, but be careful. Know the facts and avoid the life-threatening risks.

1 Comment

on Is it a Good Idea to Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?.
  1. |

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work 🙂

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