Dangers of Detoxing Cold Turkey

how to detox without medication

What Is Detoxing “Cold Turkey”?

Detoxing cold turkey is a phrase that essentially means you’re self-detoxing. Self-detoxing is normally a process in which you simply stop taking your medications, stop drinking, or stop taking drugs without any help with withdrawal symptoms and without a detoxification program in place.

Why Is Detoxing Cold Turkey Dangerous?

Detoxing cold turkey is dangerous for a few reasons including:

  1. The potential for life-threatening side effects
  2. The potential for relapse
  3. The risk of overdose

The first and most important reason to get help with withdrawal symptoms and detoxification is the risk of life-threatening side effects. Not all drug or alcohol cessation situations will be life-threatening, but it’s hard to tell what kind of situation you’ll be in until you’re in it. With help from a professional, you can have your symptoms monitored and treated as they arise, making the withdrawal process easier to manage.

The next reason to seek help during detox is the risk of relapsing. For instance, if you stop taking an opiate drug, you may make it four or five days without before the symptoms become overbearing and too bothersome to ignore any longer. In a detoxification program, those symptoms could be mitigated to help you through the remaining time of detox. However, if you’re at home or alone, you don’t have the help and are more likely to go back to the drug you were taking to relieve those symptoms.

When you do that, you have a high risk of overdose. Trying to get rid of withdrawal symptoms quickly may mean you take a higher dose of drugs or drink more than you normally would, and that means you’re at a higher risk of overdosing and landing in the hospital or worse. Because of these risks, it’s important to always work with a medical professional when you want to detox; it’s safer for you mentally and physically, and you are in the hands of those who can help if there are complications that you need to overcome.

Can Detoxing Cold Turkey Be Life Threatening?

Depending on the kind of substance you use, detoxing cold turkey can be very dangerous and even life-threatening. For example, sudden alcohol cessation can cause these symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

sick woman laying in bed

Of course, there are many other symptoms as well. These symptoms, for alcohol cessation, normally arise within 12 to 24 hours after the last drink you’ve had. At that point, you may suffer some visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations. They tend to end within 48 hours. Don’t confuse these sensations with delirium tremens, though, since DT is a life-threatening condition.

In a typical withdrawal situation, seizures are possible. They tend to strike within 24 to 48 hours after your last drink. They can begin as soon as two hours after your last drink. If you’ve detoxed in the past, you’re more likely to suffer a seizure if you stop drinking suddenly.

If you suffer these symptoms, you may be suffering from delirium tremens and need medical help immediately:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Severe anxiety
  • Hallucinations that can’t be distinguished from reality
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Severe tremors

The symptoms of DT tend to peak within five days of cessation. These symptoms need to be monitored in a medical facility because they can lead to death.

What Happens If I’m In Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal from Detoxing Cold Turkey?

Depending on the kind of substance you use, your medical doctor will prescribe medications and therapies to help you through withdrawal in a safe manner.

For example, if you’ve detoxed from alcohol cold turkey, then your doctor may prescribe these drugs to get you back on track and to treat withdrawal:

  • Clonidine, which helps manage blood pressure
  • Phenytoin, which is an anticonvulsant
  • A beta-blocker, which can help relieve a fast heart rate and reduce high blood pressure related to withdrawal
  • Antipsychotics to reduce or relieve agitation and hallucinations
  • Benzodiazepines, which can be used to sedate a patient in some cases and will treat shakiness and anxiety

How Can I Get More Help With Substance Abuse and Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol and drug abuse can be difficult to deal with, but stopping cold turkey is a recipe for withdrawal. Instead of struggling through a painful withdrawal process, you can work with a medical team to overcome those side effects in a controlled environment. To learn more about the programs that can help you, call us today by dialing 1-866-802-6848 to speak with someone about substance abuse and detoxification. If you’re online, visit us online at www.CoastalDetox.com to read more about the programs available today. We can help you learn more about the programs in your area and find one that suits your needs as an individual.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.