Is it a Good Idea to Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

The 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.

Minor Effects of Quitting Drinking

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.

More Serious Effects of Quitting Drinking

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.

Quit Drinking Cold Turkey

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.

If You Want To Quit Drinking Or Drugging, What Should You Do?

Here's a question for you:

"What's the difference between people who successfully quit drinking and those who just dream about quitting?"

The difference is DOING SOMETHING!

Successful people see a problem and decide to do something about it. Dreamers just…well dream about doing something.

If you…

Want to Quit Drinking/Drugging;
Have Recently Quit Drinking/Drugging;
Know Someone Who Fits in These Categories…

Do Something!

Start by joining a community that is focused on experience, strength and hope. Join us, people just like you, for encouragement and guidance. Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you more stories like this one, suggestions for getting and staying sober, information about addiction and sobriety, and details about my personal story.

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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I Quit Drinking Alcohol After 18 Long Years 
A reader shares how she quit drinking after nearly two decades. Gina writes : Hi my name is Gina. I was drinking the equivalent of a gallon and …

Quitting Alcohol Consumtion Cold Turkey 
Hi my name is Ilene. I was addicted to alcohol for about 29 years and I am 47 years old. My alcohol consumption started when I was 17 and continued until …

Cold Turkey, Counseling, AA: Find Your Solution! Not rated yet
I'm 43 and have started drinking when I was 13. I started using drugs when I was 23. After countless run-ins with the law, many months of jail time and …

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