Author: Alex Thompson

Dangers of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey

how to quit alcohol cold turkey

Quitting drinking cold turkey is a significant challenge, particularly for heavy drinkers. It’s crucial to approach this process with a well-thought-out plan and the support of healthcare professionals and loved ones. Remember, quitting drinking alcohol cold turkey can lead to serious health risks, so it’s essential to be informed and prepared. With the right support and strategies, you can navigate the path to sobriety and embrace a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring best-selling author Mallory Ervin, shares how to overcome addiction and live a full life.
  2. Additionally, many people relapse in early recovery because they want to self-medicate depression, anxiety, and uncomfortable feelings that come with PAWS.
  3. If you drink heavily, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be harsh, dangerous, and even fatal.

One is because it can be easier to avoid the drug entirely than to use it moderately when your usual mode is to take it in an unrestrained manner. Depending on how much you drink, tapering off alcohol can take one to several weeks. It’s best to reduce your drinking by a small amount each day to avoid the shock to your system.

Support groups, from Alcoholics Anonymous to SMART Recovery, are one free way to find a community of people on the same journey. There are also a number of anti-craving medications to help you avoid drinking again, or even help with your tapering process. Finally, finding a therapist or a recovery coach can help you develop new coping mechanisms and move forward in your life. Creating a tapering schedule you can stick with is a crucial part of weaning yourself off alcohol. The best schedule varies based on how much you drink each day and your overall health. As mentioned above, we strongly recommend speaking with a doctor to ensure your plan is a safe one, and won’t cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Identify alternative ways to manage these feelings, such as practicing mindfulness, exercising regularly, journaling, or seeking therapy. Developing healthy coping mechanisms can significantly reduce the urge to turn to alcohol. Ask a trusted friend or family member to assist you in this process if necessary. Additionally, consider avoiding social events or gatherings where alcohol is the primary focus, at least during the initial stages of your journey. “It may appear to be physical and most often occurs as subtle anxiety combined with thoughts of drinking,” Finn said.

What Does It Mean to Stop Drinking Cold Turkey?

Tapering is meant to reduce the withdrawal symptoms from quitting alcohol, but this isn’t a guarantee. As mentioned above, many people will still experience some level of withdrawal, just to a lesser degree. This may work for many people, but in practice each individual will respond best to a different pace, and each doctor will have their own recommendations. The risk of tapering too slowly is that you won’t stick with it, while the risk of tapering too fast is severe withdrawal. If you experience dangerous signs such as high blood pressure, racing heart, or arrhythmias, slow your taper and seek assistance.

how to quit alcohol cold turkey

If it’s too hard to control how much you drink each day, weaning might not be the right strategy. That said, there are now several medications that can help reduce your cravings and make weaning off alcohol easier. Proper hydration and nutrition play a crucial role in supporting your body’s recovery during alcohol withdrawal. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and consume a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Proper nourishment can help alleviate some withdrawal symptoms and promote overall well-being. Surround yourself with individuals who support your decision to quit drinking alcohol.

The same reasons why it’s not a good idea to quit drinking cold turkey apply to quitting drugs cold turkey. Depending on the substance you’ve been using, drug detox can bring about painful or dangerous withdrawal symptoms. When you have a drug addiction, your brain has gotten used to having substances to help it function. Only a medical professional knows the appropriate medications and taper schedules that are safe for your physical make-up and history of drug abuse. Medical detox is especially important for people with heroin addiction, painkiller addiction, benzo addiction, and alcohol addiction. It’s difficult to quit drinking cold turkey and maintain sobriety without a formal addiction treatment program.

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Tapering can help minimize these symptoms, but you might still experience some of them while your body adjusts to the lack of alcohol. “In addition, since a person’s overall well-being will significantly improve after stopping, that might outweigh any minor negative side effect.” “In fact, it is very health enhancing to stop drinking when you don’t have an alcohol use disorder,” he said. Various factors such as how much the person has been drinking, how long they have been drinking, and their age will play a role in how the process of quitting unfolds.

“The critical matter is that the person does not have a severe AUD—in such cases, by definition, the person will experience some withdrawal symptoms.” For someone who does not have an AUD, Finn said it is not dangerous at all to stop drinking cold turkey. If you or someone you know is experiencing any concerning physical or neurological signs while quitting cold turkey, call 911 immediately. If you choose to detox on your own, meeting regularly with your healthcare provider can help ensure that you remain well throughout the process. They may prescribe you a medication to make detoxing easier, depending on the drug you are withdrawing from. Lexapro (escitalopram) is an antidepressant typically used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Dangers of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey

We combine that treatment with a wide variety of evidence-based services to ensure you feel prepared to continue your recovery journey. Quitting cold turkey is dangerous because of certain alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They monitor you around the clock for painful or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Quitting alcohol cold turkey can lead to various withdrawal symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe health risks.

“Motivation will vary from day to day and from hour to hour when one first starts to quit. The key is to try to keep motivation high,” Finn said. “Decide on what types of activities will replace the regular drinking and then initiate that activity before stopping the drinking entirely,” Finn said. “The best options are regular exercise and involvement in activities with a social context and commitment.” Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps. John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative health or social consequences. The term is now used to refer to conditions that people might call alcohol dependence, abuse, or addiction. Quitting binge drinking may require different strategies than either tapering or cold turkey. Our programs include aftercare, intensive outpatient programs, and individual therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and motivational interviewing. There are multiple health benefits you can experience when you start drinking less alcohol.

Medical Supervision for Drug Abstinence Is Safest

Alcohol is one of only a few drugs with withdrawal symptoms so severe that they can actually claim your life. If you want to change your relationship with alcohol, it’s important to have an honest conversation with a doctor about your drinking habits before you start tapering off. They’ll be able to help you create a tapering schedule that won’t only raise your chance of success but also avoid severe symptoms. For people who are heavy users of alcohol or drugs, quitting cold turkey may be more appealing—for a number of reasons.