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Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey: Understanding the Dangers

Home » Blog » Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey: Understanding the Dangers

Quitting alcohol cold turkey means that you stop drinking abruptly and without professional help. While the continued presence of alcohol in your system can put you at risk for an array of serious medical concerns, suddenly stopping like this can also be harmful to your health.

Dangers of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey

If you have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time, quitting alcohol cold turkey could be dangerous or even fatal. 

Before you try to stop drinking, it’s important to consider the potential dangers and make the best decisions for your health as well as for your recovery. For example:

  • Alcohol withdrawal can include both physical and psychological pain. Virtually everyone who goes through this process is tempted to drink, if only to ease their distress. If you attempt to quit drinking on your own, you won’t have anyone to help you resist this temptation, which can quickly derail your recovery efforts.
  • The knowledge that you can easily access alcohol while going through withdrawal at home can also be an obstacle to successfully quitting drinking. Even if you have a friend or family member with you for moral support, they may not be able to stop you from accessing a hidden stash of alcohol or simply buying more.
  • An estimated 5%-10% of people who have alcoholism experience a dangerous set of withdrawal symptoms called delirium tremens (or the DTs). The DTs can include extreme confusion, tremors, hallucinations, hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperature), racing heart rate, seizure, and cardiovascular collapse. Without proper treatment, experts estimate that about 37% of all cases of the DTs would be fatal.

How to Quit Alcohol Safely

Instead of quitting alcohol cold turkey with no professional support, a safer option is to enter a detoxification (detox) program. The benefits of detox include:

  • Environment: You will be in a safe, closely supervised environment where you won’t have access to alcohol or any other addictive substances.
  • Staff: In an alcohol detox program, you will be cared for by professionals who can provide appropriate medical support to keep you safe and minimize your discomfort. These experts should be familiar with all aspects of the withdrawal process and prepared to address any contingencies that may arise.
  • Therapy: Depending on the nature and severity of your withdrawal symptoms, you may be able to start participating in therapy while you’re still in detox. This can allow you to begin building a foundation for a healthier, alcohol-free future before you’ve even completed withdrawal.
  • Continuity: Once you have completed detox, you can transfer directly into a residential or outpatient rehab program. Remaining under the continuous care of professionals can minimize your risk of immediate relapse and allow you to establish a stronger foothold in early recovery.
  • Success: When you were in the throes of active alcohol addiction, you may have believed there was no escape. Successfully completing detox can demonstrate that you are stronger and more capable than you once thought. This sense of accomplishment can be quite valuable as you encounter future challenges in your recovery journey.

What Happens After You Quit Drinking?

Whether you quit cold turkey on your own or with professional help, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean your struggles with alcoholism are over.

Alcohol addiction is a chronic condition. This means that, in the view of most reputable treatment professionals, it is not a curable disorder. Instead, the goals of rehab and peer support groups are to help you learn how to manage your symptoms and resist future urges to drink.

For many people, enrolling in a residential or outpatient program is a necessary step on the path toward successful, long-term recovery. Treatment can help you in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Gaining important information about the disease of addiction and the process of recovery
  • Identifying your triggers, which are the experiences or circumstances that may have pushed you into alcohol abuse in the first place or could threaten to undermine your sobriety
  • Developing strategies for avoiding triggers or responding to them in a healthier manner, without resorting to alcohol abuse
  • Getting help for anxiety, depression, or any other co-occurring mental health concerns that may have led to or been worsened by your struggles with alcohol addiction
  • Practicing vital recovery-support skills, such as effective communication, stress management, and conflict resolution
  • Learning how to repair or rebuild relationships that were harmed by your compulsive alcohol abuse
  • Finding healthy and productive ways to fill the hours that you used to spend drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • Establishing a strong personal support network
  • Discovering the value of sharing support with other members of the recovery community
  • Connecting with community-based resources that can help you progress in your recovery after you’ve completed your time in treatment

Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Atlanta

Peachtree Recovery Solutions is a premier provider of life-affirming outpatient treatment for adults who have become addicted to alcohol and other drugs. We also serve patients whose struggles with substances are accompanied by anxiety, depression, and certain other co-occurring mental health conditions.

Programming options at our rehab center in Atlanta, Georgia, include a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an evening IOP, and traditional outpatient treatment. We also offer gender-specific services for both men and women, as well as a vibrant aftercare program.

To best support patients who need professional assistance to complete the withdrawal process, we have partnered with several trusted detox facilities in the Atlanta area. If detox is the best place for you to begin your recovery journey, we can refer you to one of these centers before you begin treatment with us.

To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.