Quitting Cold Turkey: Yes or No?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Whether it’s for economic or personal reasons, many people refuse to enter a rehab facility and believe they can quit their addictions cold turkey. In fact, rehab is often pursued after a person has tried to quit on his or her own without success.

For those who use certain kinds of drugs on a more recreational basis, it’s possible to manage the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms on their own. But for severe addicts or those who use far more dangerous substances, such as heroin, the initial stages of detox can be fatal if left unsupervised by a medical professional.

For severe addicts or those who use far more dangerous substances, such as heroin, the initial stages of detox can be fatal if left unsupervised by a medical professional.

Although medical experts debate on whether or not marijuana is physically addictive, there is no doubt that it can be difficult to quit. “It is extremely addictive…for some people,” said Dr. Drew Pinsky. “I think that’s where people get confused. It’s not very addictive for many people. It’s a small subset of people with a genetic potential for addiction. But for them it is really tough.”

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms include sleeplessness, anxiety, irritability and decreased appetite. But while these experiences are unpleasant, they’re not considered to have moderate risks.

Cocaine is a much more difficult drug to quit cold turkey. Side effects from cocaine withdrawal can include paranoia, depression and insomnia combined with lethargy. But while these experiences are unpleasant, they aren’t life-threatening and the worst of it subsides within 24 hours. Harvard Medical School psychologist Howard J. Shaffer, co-author with Stephanie B. Jones of the 1989 book Quitting Cocaine, documented 30 cases of people quitting cocaine successfully without medical treatment.

Addiction to prescription medication is among the most complex substance abuse problems to treat. Because long-term prescription drug abuse affects almost all of the systems in the body, opioid withdrawal symptoms take place when this supply is immediately cut off. Withdrawal symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, chills and severe depression. These experiences are extremely painful both mentally and physically, and can last anywhere from several hours to several weeks.

Professional care is highly recommended when dealing with a prescription drug abuse. The withdrawal symptoms are so severe that addicts will often relapse in order to avoid going through them.

Professional care is highly recommended when dealing with prescription drug abuse. The withdrawal symptoms are so severe that addicts will often relapse in order to avoid going through them. And in the case of certain kinds of prescription medication, such as benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, including seizures, hallucinations and psychosis. Rehabs create a safe, controlled environment to address these issues. Licensed professionals can assist in reducing the pain with medications such as methadone and suboxone.

But regardless of the drug being abused, rehab or outpatient treatment is often necessary to address the mental and emotional components of addiction. This work on “emotional sobriety” gives people the tools to regulate their feelings and abstain from medicating difficult emotions through compulsive behaviors. For those who chose an outpatient form of treatment, withdrawal recovery support groups also increase the chances of withdrawal success.


Also Read: How Improperly Detoxing Can Kill You

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