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Can I Quit Cold Turkey?

You know the scene in the movie where the person goes off of drugs all on their own. They are sweaty and dirty and they have been locked in a bathroom or chained to a radiator and someone has told them that they can’t leave until they get clean. They clutch their stomach, they heave, they vomit, and they do it all in a couple of days. Yes, there must be at least one person that has done this, but it isn’t effective detox or effective treatment.

“Cold turkey” is the term used for stopping drug use without help and never going back. In traditional terms, it is a kind of detox (the process where you transition from actually high to completely drug and alcohol free). Even if you go through a professional detox program that still isn’t the end. So quitting cold turkey is nearly impossible as a replacement for a full treatment program. You are suffering through detox and then using power of will to keep yourself clean? Yeah, that doesn’t really happen.

When you get ready to stop using drugs and alcohol, you should look into a detox method that works for you, but you should also be prepared to follow it up with structured, professional treatment. One way to help yourself with that process if to speak to experts, like the ones at SubstanceAbuse.org. One call to 800-487-1890 (Who Answers?) can get you answers to questions and connected to centers. You will be one step closer to finding what works for you.


The biggest drawback to quitting any drug or alcohol is the withdrawal you will have to go through. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse points out, all drugs have different withdrawal symptoms and durations. One thing they all have in common is that they are uncomfortable.

Quit Cold Turkey

Enduring withdrawal without professional treatment help can be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous.

For example, heroin withdrawal sets in approximately 12 hours after your last heroin use. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Tearing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Runny nose
  • Perspiring
  • Yawning
  • Stomach cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Goose bumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In contrast, cocaine withdrawal typically includes:

  • Agitation/restless behavior
  • Depression
  • Sleepiness
  • General discomfort
  • Bigger appetite
  • Vivid/unpleasant dreams
  • Slowing of activity

The symptoms have a few things in common (agitation, trouble sleeping), but they have a lot of symptoms that are different from one another. When you look into proper treatment, you will have an expert assisting you who is familiar with different withdrawal symptoms and trained to alleviate or stop them entirely.


It’s important to understand how a professional detox differs from a do-it-yourself method.

A home detox can be researched online and it usually involves trying to speed up your body’s natural filtering mechanisms. So, you drink lots of water to get urine filtering out toxins and you take a lot of hot baths to get your sweat glands active. But, all the lemon water in the world doesn’t combat drug and alcohol withdrawal.

A professional detox program will lead you through the transition from intoxicated to drug and alcohol free. It is also the first stage in your treatment (something you can’t just will yourself through). A professional detox will urge you to seek some form of treatment.

The model of detox that you are probably familiar with is the medical model, where a staff or doctors and nurses use medication to help you get clean before you undergo rehab. There is also a social model, where a supportive group of peers, instead of clinicians and meds, supports you through your detox before proper treatment.

What You Must Know About Alcohol Detox

What Are the Stages of Detox?

According to the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) detoxification has three parts: evaluation, stabilizations, and nurturing patient readiness for treatment and their entry into that treatment.

During evaluation, you are:

  • Tested for the presence of drugs and/or alcohol in your body, the amount of each will be measured.
  • Screened for any other psychological or medical condition
  • Evaluated by your medical and psychological conditions, as well as your social situation

During stabilization, you are:

  • Transitioned through acute intoxication and withdrawal into a substance-free position
  • Fully supported by treatment staff
  • Pu through a medical and psychosocial process

During the final step, you are:

  • told about the importance of following through with drug and alcohol treatment
  • Prepared to enter that treatment

You can’t replicate these circumstances in your bedroom and you certainly can’t be responsible for fully supporting yourself through a cold turkey approach. You shouldn’t have to. Let people help you. Call Our helpline at 800-487-1890 (Who Answers?) .

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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