Going Cold Turkey: Can You Get Clean Without Help?

Overcoming substance abuse can be challenging. Some find the idea of going cold turkey preferable to entering a rehab treatment facility. The belief is that if drugs or alcohol are “out of sight, and out of mind,” then recovery is possible. Without the proper medical attention, the risks involved increase leading to potential problems.

The Draw of Going Cold Turkey

People with addiction issues can see going cold turkey, quitting their addiction without any medical help as more appealing for several reasons.

Many people believe that they have a much better chance of quitting if they avoid drugs or alcohol altogether. The second is by trying to block out all the people, places, or triggers associated with their addiction; they feel they can then restart their lives.

Risks Involved

The road to recovery is a tricky one, especially without adequate medical supervision. Long periods of substance abuse will change your nervous system making you more dependent on drugs or alcohol.

The real danger lies with suddenly changing substance use patterns, going from heavy usage straight to cold turkey. This abrupt change can send the nervous system into shock, possibly causing life-threatening conditions to happen, such as a heart attack or seizures.

A second danger is that the body loses tolerance to the drugs or alcohol so rapidly, which increases the chances of overdosing in the case of relapse. Drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, which have less noticeable effects, can cause a person to experience severe withdrawal symptoms better dealt with by a rehab facility.

The risks involved with going cold turkey are different for each person and their substance abuse history. It’s essential to understand the risks involved and how a sudden change in substance use patterns could be dangerous.

When to Get Help

Recovery from substance abuse can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If you’re showing signs of a heart attack, seizure, or changes in your consciousness, call 911 right away. Knowing when you should seek help isn’t a sign of failure but determination.

Below are symptoms of a heart attack:

  • shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • weakness, light-headedness, or faintness
  • pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder
  • nausea, vomiting

Recovering from substance abuse of any kind can be emotionally draining, physically taxing, and overwhelming even at the best of times. If you or someone you know is showing physical or neurological signs of needing help, call 911 right away.

Rehab Is the Best Chance for Recovery

For some, rehab may be the safest option to reach a successful recovery. Substance abuse treatment for drugs or alcohol involves ending the body’s physical dependence on the substance while also working issues around behavior.

The cold turkey method doesn’t address any of the psychological issues that led to the addiction. The path to recovery isn’t just about stopping the physical dependence but also about how a person thinks, acts, and feels. By entering a rehab facility, recovery professionals can help tackle the mental health side of addiction and help you reach sobriety.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a lifelong disease requiring a daily commitment. Entering a treatment facility can provide the tools needed to work yourself and resist using again. Partnered with going to regular support group meetings and the backing from family and friends, you’ll be unstoppable.

Aspen can Help

Taking the first step into treatment for drugs or alcohol dependence can be scary if done alone. Let our team of medical professionals and recovery experts guide you as you begin to learn how to handle the stressors of a sober life. Our team is ready to help you every step of your road to recovery and to help change your life for the better. Contact the team at Aspen Behavioral Health to learn how we can help.


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