Why You Should Never Detox “Cold Turkey”
When a person is struggling with a drug addiction and decides to quit using their chosen substance, their first thought might be to avoid going to rehab and attempt to get sober on their own. They can come to this decision for several reasons, from fear of stigma to financial worries. However, before a person can become drug free, they must go through a stage of the recovery process known as detoxification, or detox for short. During detox, the goal is to remove all harmful and addictive substances from a person’s body, overcoming the physical dependence to the drug.
Due to the adverse side-effects, it is always recommended to undergo the detoxification process in a professional setting, such as an inpatient rehab facility. However, there are many times where an individual feels they can overcome this process alone, otherwise known as detoxing “cold turkey.” While this might seem like the most straightforward way to break free from the struggle of living with addiction, it is not only the least effective route, but can also be incredibly dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can present as uncomfortable and painful, often leading the user back to their chosen substance, and in some scenarios, can be life-threatening if not treated appropriately. For this reason, a person should never undergo detox without the assistance of medical professionals.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
The most difficult part of detox is the withdrawal associated with it. When a patient goes into withdrawal, it is because their body has learned to rely on their chosen substance as a means to function normally. Without the substance, the body loses this ability and suffers negative side effects.
While these can vary based on the individual, the abused drug, the duration of use, and degree of the addiction, some of the most common side effects that an individual can expect during withdrawal include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Stomach pains
In extreme cases where a person has been addicted long-term or to an especially potent substance, such as alcohol, more severe symptoms can occur such as:
- Irregular heart rate
- Delirium Tremens
- High fever
Understanding a Medically Managed Detox
Under normal circumstances, when an addict participates in a medically managed detox, they do so at a rehab center under the supervision of medical professionals. Being at a licensed facility is advantageous because if a health risk arises, the patient can expect a rapid response from the staff on hand.
During the process itself, the staff will work with the patient to make detox more manageable. How this is done will depend on the patient, the drug that they are addicted to, and other co-existing medical conditions, which are discovered through a thorough evaluation upon intake. From this assessment, the medical team can then devise appropriate treatment plans that include effective detox protocols, clinical interventions, and holistic approaches that include an emphasis on recreational therapy. All of these components are essential in the process, as they allow the patient to begin healing physically, mentally and spiritually.
In severe cases, medical professionals at the facility will also administer specific medications to mitigate any painful, and potentially life-threatening symptoms. When dealing with a particularly powerful substance, such as alcohol, this step is often a necessity to keep the patient safe.
How Difficult is a “Cold Turkey” Detox?
While an individual may feel they are capable of a cold turkey detox, the reality is very few people actually succeed. Regardless of how determined they may be, once a dependence has formed, they not only need to fight their physical cravings, but also the mental obsession that has taken hold.
In a set of studies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers examined the success rate of a person who successfully quit smoking tobacco using a cold turkey approach. Here, the researchers discovered that only 3-5% of people were able to maintain abstinence for 6-12 months after an attempt. In contrast, attempting to quit with the help of a support system has been shown to triple a person’s chance of remaining tobacco–free long term.
An important point to recognize with these studies is that they only applied to people who were attempting to quit smoking tobacco. Although cigarette addictions are common, the strength of nicotine is minor when compared with other substances such as opioids or stimulants. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40-60 percent of people addicted to an illicit substance will relapse at some point. This is not always due to just physical withdrawal symptoms, but the psychological effects withdrawal can have including anxiety and depression. For this reason, it is imperative the individual seek professional help, so they may receive the clinical and medical support they need to recover.
Receive a Medically Managed Detox Today
As you can see, attempting to detox “cold turkey” is never a good idea. While it may seem like the best option at the time, because of familial obligations or job-related responsibilities, it never truly is. Regardless of your circumstances, a medically managed detox should become your first priority when overcoming substance abuse.
If you or someone you love is currently in need of detox and residential treatment, Brookdale Premier Addiction Recovery can help. Here, you will be met with the care and compassion you need, while receiving the highest quality of addiction treatment options. Upon admission, our team will respond rapidly to your needs, devising customized treatment plans that are most conducive to your recovery journey.
While addiction may feel impossible to overcome, there is hope, and it is found through the help of others. For more information about our program and services or to speak with an Admissions Specialist, please call us today at (855) 575-1292.