Alcohol Withdrawal Cold Turkey: Symptoms of Sudden Quitting

Alcohol, found in spirits, wines, and beverages, is an addictive substance. Although alcohol is not considered illegal in the United States, it still poses long-term health threats, and can change people physically and mentally. Mood swings can manifest more, and violent tendencies become triggered while intoxicated. Also, chronic alcohol consumption can cause substance dependence and potential alcohol poisoning when binge drinking.


Continuous consumption of alcoholic beverages has proven risks. However, more than these adverse effects, quitting becomes exponentially tricky relative to the duration of alcohol addiction. In simpler terms, when an individual becomes addicted to alcohol, they may eventually lose the ability to be productive without drinking a bottle or two. To make things worse, a person with severe alcohol dependence can experience “cold turkey” when he or she abruptly tries to quit drinking without proper professional help and guidance.


What Happens When a Severe Alcoholic Goes Cold Turkey?


Before going into the symptoms of cold turkey, it is crucial to break down its definition and discuss how an individual becomes prone to experiencing it. According to a recent study on alcohol withdrawal, cold turkey is the sudden stopping of addictive substance dependence through full restriction from drug or alcohol consumption. Cold turkey usually results in unpleasant feelings, such as insomnia and migraines. When the substance dependence is within severe levels, this abrupt withdrawal is simply dangerous, as it can also lead to fatal seizures and progressing mental health illnesses.


When a severe alcoholic goes cold turkey, his or her entire well-being becomes both restless and in-danger. As alcohol became an actual need for the individual, its removal has caused the person’s brain to crave for the substance intensely. Without alcohol consumption, the craving then manifests into physical symptoms that put the person in a dangerous situation. The following are symptoms of experiencing cold turkey:


  • Seizures and tremors

  • Migraines and insomnia

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Fatigue and muscle weakness

  • Restlessness and irritability

  • Mood swings and cognitive problems

  • Irregular heart rate

  • Fever and hallucinations


Symptoms from cold turkey vary between individuals, as they also have different mental coping mechanisms due to the sudden withdrawal. While individuals with mid-level substance addiction may experience mild discomfort, others can manifest life-threatening signs.


Is Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey Dangerous?


As mentioned in the previous section, cold turkey from quitting alcohol is harmful to the human bodily systems, physically and mentally. It disrupts the individual’s capacity to function correctly, and it forces strong feelings of craving for alcohol. There is a notion that sudden stopping can eventually lead to full recovery, although most unsupervised quitting attempts lead to failure. In worse cases, it results in death due to going cold turkey. An alcohol rehab or treatment center’s assistance is needed to properly stop alcohol without facing the detrimental effects of abrupt alcohol restriction.


We ought to be wary of withdrawal symptoms. These are not merely negative or uncomfortable feelings that one can immediately shrug off or disregard. When side effects from quitting are left untreated or unaddressed, the person that experiences them has a higher probability of reverting to the use of alcohol. In that case, they often use more of it or use it more often. Substance restriction, without professional help or even support from family members, can lead to drug relapse, which will waste the person’s effort to change.


What to Consider About Quitting Drinking Cold Turkey?


The primary aspect that one must consider about alcohol withdrawal is the fact that cold turkey can be avoided during the road to recovery. Contrary to popular opinion, individuals experience cold turkey mainly because of their fear to admit themselves in an alcohol rehab or treatment center. People often feel that there is an existing stigma when it comes to falling victim to addictive substances. However, with the help of medical professionals and licensed clinical psychologists, the transition to a sober life can be much smoother and less difficult.


For individuals with little information about substance dependence, attempting to suddenly stop may stem from their own denial that they have a substance use disorder from the long term alcohol consumption. Even if alcoholism is evident in their life, people may try to convince themselves that they are still in control of their actions. Considering this, alcohol rehab centers exist to improve the lives of individuals who want to quit drinking.


Why Do People Experience Withdrawal Symptoms When They Quit Drinking?


In order to understand how withdrawal symptoms manifest, it is important to discuss what the alcohol does to the human body. Alcohol is a chemical compound, which triggers a “feel good” emotion in the brain using hormones, particularly endorphin and dopamine. These hormones are related to the overall reward system of the mind. Endorphins decrease the level of stress and pain, and dopamine produces the feeling of satisfaction. Considering this, the body and brain of the human body can get used to the ‘positive’ effects that alcohol provides.


As a result of chronic consumption, alcohol now becomes an ingrained necessity of the body. The physical human system thinks that it needs alcohol to be generally stable, and the brain becomes hardwired to seek sources of the alcohol compound, which is alcoholic beverages. The particular need is then transformed into substance dependence, where the person will not be able to properly function without it. As a result, when alcohol is taken away, withdrawal symptoms begin targeting the individual’s emotions, cognitive patterns, and behavior. This is a way that the body sort of convinces the person dependent on alcohol to give in and drink.


Why is it so hard to stop drinking cold turkey?


As mentioned, drinking cold turkey is the withdrawal symptoms from abrupt alcohol restriction. It is generally hard to stop since the body has gotten used to the hormones that alcohol intake triggers. Considering this, when alcohol restriction becomes a little bit more gradual, the physical and mental discomfort becomes less severe. In a way, the gradual decrease of alcohol consumption tricks the body that it still receives the needed daily dose of the alcohol compound.


Although it is inevitable to skip or bypass withdrawal symptoms, the journey through it can be much easier with proper treatment and guidance. Upon the continuous and gradual alcohol reduction, there will be a time when the person does not need daily alcohol consumption anymore. When the proper method of stopping is grouped with professional supervision and treatment medication, alcohol addiction can be eliminated from a person with minimal discomfort. Regardless of the severity of alcohol dependence, everyone deserves an opportunity to have a productive life once more.


At Recovery BLVD Treatment Center, our alcohol rehab in Center Gresham, OR, provides treatment programs and transition medications for alcohol dependence and addiction. We have treatment plans that target withdrawal symptoms, addressing discomfort as we journey towards our sober selves. Let us discuss how we can start you or your loved one in moving to a better life.


Give us a call at (503) 897-1916 or visit us at 1316 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214. We are available for 24/7 admissions and on-site contact.



Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case to case basis.


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