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Going Cold Turkey: The Wrong Way to Quit Alcohol

Cold Turkey

If you have been using alcohol for a long time — because you have been self-medicating with alcohol or habitually drinking — and you’re ready to stop, it’s important for you to understand the dangers of suddenly stopping alcohol.

Your body has relied on alcohol for a long time, and very likely in large doses every day. So, your brain and central nervous system have been “powered” by alcohol, literally. Alcohol interferes with neurotransmitters in your brain. The more you drink, the more your brain relies on alcohol and the less it uses your own naturally balanced chemistry to tell your body how to feel.

This alteration in your body’s chemistry is why alcoholics might experience depression, breathing problems, rapid heart rate, hot flashes and cold sweats, and a slew of other physical and emotional symptoms.

What Happens When You Suddenly Stop Drinking Alcohol?

Quitting alcohol “cold turkey” — or by abruptly cutting off your supply — can be dangerous and, if not managed properly, will fail. Alcoholics who quit cold turkey without the care and supervision of trained medical staff are at risk for not only relapse but also serious medical conditions.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Alcohol

You probably have experienced several of these symptoms when you’ve stopped drinking alcohol, even for a few hours: anxiety, trembling, insomnia, nausea, sweating, and cravings for alcohol and other foods, especially sweets. It’s not uncommon for alcoholics to crave sugary sweets when they stop drinking. Of course, these foods won’t get you high or drunk. Your body has come to depend on sugar and grains from alcohol, so when you stop drinking cold turkey, your body craves those sugar and grains.

More serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include delirium tremens, a psychotic condition that chronic alcoholics experience and is sometimes referred to as “DTs.” Delirium tremens symptoms include hallucinations, convulsions and seizures, and in severe cases, heart failure. While DT affects only about 5% of alcoholics, it kills one out of 20 people who are affected by it, according to Harvard University.

You may experience these symptoms within mere hours of quitting drinking, even while alcohol is still in your blood.

  • Aggression, anger, hostility, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite loss
  • Clamminess
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory problems
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart beats
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

How Detox Helps with Withdrawal

Detoxification from alcohol can take a few days to a couple weeks, depending on the alcoholic’s age, overall health, and other factors including how much alcohol he or she is used to consuming daily. Our detox process is tailored to individuals, and includes a combination of nutrition, vitamin supplements, counseling and in some cases medication. All of our patients who go through detox are monitored closely by medical staff, and a doctor is on call onsite 24 hours a day.

DIY Detox vs Medical Detox

Medical detoxification is the safest way to stop drinking and clear toxins from your body. If you are looking for a DIY recipe for detoxifying at home, whether it is for you or a loved one, we invite you to call one of our specialists at Castle Craig.

Medical detox involves a process of monitoring your vital signs — heart rate, pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature — and using a combination of nutrition, supplements, and prescription medications to help your body transition from a dependence on alcohol. In severe cases, medications called benzodiazepines may be used for a short time to lessen alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These “benzo” drugs must be used with extreme care, because they too can be addictive.

Success Rates of Alcohol Detox

Alcoholics who do not seek help are likely to shorten their lives by 15 years on average, according to Harvard.edu. Another study in Sweden, Denmark and Finland found life expectancy for alcoholics to be even shorter than Harvard’s findings — people who suffer from alcohol use disorder lived 24 to 28 years less than the general population.

Research tells us that alcoholics who go through formal treatment programs not only to detox but also to learn how to live a healthy and alcohol-free life are more successful and are more likely to live longer, full lives. Only 20% of alcoholics who quit cold turkey and don’t go through programs are able to abstain from alcohol, according to Harvard. The more you work within a rehabilitation program or self-help programme like Alcoholics Anonymous, and the longer you commit to the programme, the higher the chances are for success.

Get Help with Quitting Alcohol

Castle Craig’s residential treatment programme specialises in treating men and women who suffer from addiction to alcohol and other substances.

If you’re ready to quit alcohol cold turkey, let us help get you through the detox period safely. You may reach our 24-hour drug addiction help-line specialists at +44-844-740-1394 or email us at [email protected] with questions, comments, or concerns. We’re standing by, waiting for your call.