Going Cold Turkey: Is It Dangerous?

Going Cold Turkey: Is It Dangerous?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

For people who are considering recovery, words like “cold turkey” and “substance use treatment and recovery” can seem like nebulous and abstract terms. What do these words mean anyway? You may wonder how treatment is different from recovery, and what cold turkey really means.

The term “cold turkey” often refers to quitting an addictive behavior without the use of any intervention. The term implies a sheer force of will that helps a person overcome their addiction. On its surface, cold turkey seems like a nice idea. In practice, however, cold turkey is often impractical. This is because quitting addictive substances usually gives rise to withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal process can leave a person in physical and mental distress. Substance use treatment refers to the ways we can mitigate the effects of withdrawal and deliver a client safely into recovery.

Once you know the dangers of quitting cold turkey, you may begin to realize the importance of receiving controlled substance use treatment under a licensed care team. Knowing the benefits of safely quitting is crucial to the attainment of long-term sobriety.

What You Need to Know About Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery

Information published by the Vermont Department of Mental Health indicates that there are ten components to lasting recovery. These components serve as a guide for individuals seeking to overcome addiction and establish a healthier life. They include:

  • Allowing for self-direction and exercising your choice over your addictive behavior.
  • Individualization of the treatment plan or making the path to sobriety centered around one’s unique goals.
  • Empowering you in the treatment process by giving you the authority over your healing.
  • Creating a holistic treatment schedule, focused on the mind, body, spirit, and community.
  • Developing a non-linear approach by recognizing that recovery involves a step-by-step and sometimes hour-by-hour approach.
  • Basing treatment on your strengths to ensure your success.
  • Encouraging peer support, thus developing a community around you.
  • Offering respect and setting the same standard for the community, systems, and people in your life.
  • Requiring responsibility from you in your treatment and recovery.
  • Embracing hope as a part of life.

When Seeking Sobriety, Cold Turkey May Not Be an Option

Cold turkey may seem like an appealing option to you. Admitting to others that you need help may be daunting. Seemingly, the cold turkey method can give you a way to quit while continuing to hide. However, hiding is not usually a good option. In recovery, you have to embrace your need for help in order to heal.

Taking a safe approach to reaching sobriety brings a lot of benefits. Some of these include:

  • Financial health: Substance use is more common among populations in poverty and it creates its own financial strains.
  • General health: Recovering from substance abuse can decrease and heal liver damage, cardiovascular problems, and mental health disorders. Addictive substances can disrupt your body’s healthy functioning.
  • Sexual health: A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that substance use decreases sexual function. However, sexual health returns to normal for those who enter substance abuse treatment and recovery.

Quitting (Without Going Cold Turkey) With Help From Your Team

The simple fact is that quitting anything alone without therapeutic and medical interventions is risky. Sometimes the safest thing to do is to know when you need help. Fortunately, finding help from dedicated support teams is an easy thing to do. More importantly, these groups of people and the facilities they run are crucial for creating a successful journey to recovery.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these treatment facilities provide structured approaches that create safe and supportive treatment and recovery programs. That means they can help individuals overcome their problems and reach their lifelong sobriety journey.

Safe Recovery With a Support Team

In a few cases, quitting cold turkey might be the way to go. Nicotine cessation can be a situation in which quitting cold turkey may work. However, there are also medical and therapeutic interventions that can assist with quitting smoking. What matters most is that your desire to live without addictive substances is fulfilled without harmful consequences.

Many people enter substance use treatment believing that focusing on themselves is selfish. This could not be further from the truth. The most important person in your treatment and recovery journey is you, and it is important that your needs are met.

The drug and alcohol detox program at First Steps is a program that focuses on what is right for you. Our care team will evaluate you and work with you to ensure you feel comfortable during your treatment program.

Outpatient Versus Inpatient Treatment

Every healing journey is unique, and at First Steps Recovery, we recognize that. That is why we offer treatment options for every lifestyle and need. Some people thrive in an inpatient program, while others do well in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). The First Steps Recovery care team will help you to find the program that is right for you and be with you every step of the way.

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Right for Me?

Knowing what you now know about quitting cold turkey, you might be wondering if medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a good option for you. You may need this type of help to safely and successfully recover from addiction. What exactly is MAT, though?

MAT combines counseling, behavioral therapies, and medication to holistically treat addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT emphasizes the use of medication combined with other therapies to create the best treatment outcomes.

No matter what your journey looks like, let us be your first steps into a lifetime of recovery from substance abuse. At First Steps, it is our mission to help you heal.

We have all heard the term “quitting cold turkey” thrown around. However, while it might seem noble, quitting cold turkey is risky. This approach increases your chances of an overdose, withdrawal complications, and eventual relapse. Working with a dedicated care team like the professionals at First Steps Recovery can help ensure you will find the success you are seeking. We can help you navigate the treatment process and help you decide which treatment options are right for you. You will have a chance to focus on your own well-being in a safe and supportive environment. When you are ready to start your journey, call First Steps Recovery at (844) 489-0836 and speak to a knowledgeable staff member. 

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