Dangers of Going Cold Turkey  

If you're thinking about quitting drugs or alcohol cold turkey, you should be commended for making healthier choices. Here's how to do it.

Questions about treatment?
  • Access to licensed treatment centers
  • Information on treatment plans
  • Financial assistance options
We're available 24/7
Call American Addictions centers help information

If you’re thinking about quitting drugs or alcohol cold turkey, you should first be commended for committing to make healthier choices and regain control of your life. And although the urge to get well as soon as possible is certainly understandable, quitting drugs without the help of trained medical professionals can be dangerous at best and fatal at worst.


For several alcoholics, suddenly ceasing the use of alcohol can result in hallucinations, convulsions and heart seizures that could lead to death.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Shakiness
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

Detoxing from alcohol is a two-phase process. The first phase occurs over a period of several days. During this time, you’ll likely experience some of the above-mentioned symptoms. The second phase occurs over a period of several months. During this time, the brain begins to resume normal functioning and the withdrawal symptoms are no longer considered life-threatening.


Attempting to quit heroin cold turkey is setting yourself up for failure. Withdrawal symptoms occur after just 12 hours and the peak of their intensity often takes place after two to four days.

These symptoms can be potentially fatal and may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • General weakness


Although most of the symptoms related to meth withdrawal are psychological, that doesn’t make them any less debilitating. Intense craving combined with mental lows is likely to lead to relapse unless the addict is in a supervised detox facility.

These symptoms can include:

  • Severe depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Aggression

The Medically Supervised Detox Process

Physical addiction to drugs and alcohol is often treated during a medically supervised detoxification process at a licensed facility. This can last anywhere from a few days to a week. As you’re slowly weaned off your substance of choice, you’ll do so with the assistance of medication that’s administered under a doctor’s watchful eye. The benefit of detoxing with medication is that you won’t experience all the negative physical symptoms of withdrawal.

When this process is complete, treatment for any psychological issues can begin. Because detox doesn’t address the underlying desire to use, inpatient treatment programs are recommended.

While in the program, you’ll learn how to handle the inevitable temptations that await you once out of treatment. The education sessions, relapse prevention plans and coping techniques acquired during rehab are all essential to getting – and staying – sober.