Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey

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Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey

Can I Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey?

After making the decision to quit drinking alcohol you will next need to come up with a safe recovery strategy. However, one route you certainly do not want to take is to quit alcohol cold turkey. To learn about the dangers of abruptly quitting alcohol, and how to safely detox, please read on.

What Happens When an Alcoholic Quits Drinking Cold Turkey?

The body and brain make adaptations when you become physically dependent on alcohol. With continued heavy drinking, the body becomes more tolerant of the substance. This prompts the person to consume ever-higher quantities of alcohol as they attempt to chase the desired effects.

Once dependency forms it becomes very risky to just suddenly stop drinking cold turkey. Doing so sends the brain into a tailspin, which causes a slew of harsh withdrawal symptoms to emerge within hours. 

The body becomes highly destabilized as it attempts to achieve homeostasis, or a state of balance. Abrupt cessation of alcohol can lead to some serious health risks, such as seizures, high blood pressure, and the delirium tremens (DTs). This is why it is never advised to stop drinking suddenly and without support.

Predicting Detox Risks When Quitting Alcohol

Alcohol detox and withdrawal differs between individuals, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. There are several factors that influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms. These include:

  • Number of prior detox attempts. One of the risk factors for the DTs is the number of times detox has been attempted in the past. The more attempts, the higher the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Severity of the alcohol use disorder. Someone with a long history of heavy alcohol abuse will be at a higher risk for severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Physical health. Someone with chronic health problems is at risk of a more complicated detox and withdrawal process.
  • Mental health. If there is a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression, it can create challenges during detox.

Upon intake, the clinical team assesses these factors to prepare for potential complications, as well as which interventions are needed. 

Detox From Alcohol Timeline

It may be helpful to prepare mentally for what to expect during alcohol detox. If you know what symptoms to expect and the detox timeline, you are more willing to ride it out to the end. Remember, that detox will be supervised by medical professionals throughout the process.

Some of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hand tremors or shaking
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Alcohol detox unfolds in three predictable stages. These include:

Stage 1: During the first 24 hours, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include sweating, nausea, foggy thinking, vomiting, hand tremors, irritability, and sleep problems.

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 Stage 2: On about days 2-4 the symptoms will peak. Symptoms include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, fever, mental confusion, mood swings, alcohol cravings, anxiety, and depression.

Stage 3: The final stage lasts about 3-5 days and features subsiding symptoms. It is common for some symptoms, such as insomnia, anxiety, cravings, or depression, to persist for much longer.

What Are the Dangers of Delirium Tremens?

Certain people are at a higher risk of developing something called the DTs when withdrawing from alcohol. The DTs are possible life threatening symptoms that may arise unexpectedly on about days 3-4 of the detox. Symptoms of the DTs include:

  • Paranoia
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Racing heart
  • Seizures
  • Severe mental confusion
  • Psychosis
  • Coma
  • Death.

The DTs is considered an emergency health event that requires immediate medical care. Only about 5% of those going through alcohol detox will develop the DTs. However, of those who do get the DTs, without medical care about 15% will die from it.

Other Health Risks from Heavy Drinking

Alcohol is very hard on the human body. In addition to the risks that come with withdrawal, prolonged alcohol abuse can cause many other serious health problems. This is why it is always best to seek help for alcoholism as early as possible.

Health risks due to severe alcohol use disorder may include:

  • Liver disease. Liver damage may occur in these ways:
  • Brain damage. Alcohol can cause damage to the brain in these ways:
    • Brain matter shrinkage
    • Cognitive impairment
    • Dementia
    • Wenicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Heart disease. Alcohol increases the risk of heart damage, such as:
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Cardiomyopathy
    • High blood pressure
  • Cancer. Alcohol can raise the risk of these cancers:
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Liver cancer
    • Breast cancer

Benefits of Quitting Alcohol and Long-Term Recovery

After completing detox and then a treatment program, you will be well on your way to experiencing the many benefits of sobriety. These include:

  1. Better health. In recovery, exercise and a healthy diet will help you feel stronger every day.
  2. Mental health. You will enjoy better memory function, better focus, mental clarity, and more stable moods.
  3. More productive. In recovery, you may plan some new career goals or start tackling some home improvement projects.
  4. Healthy friendships. You’ll gradually build up a supportive network of quality people in your new sober life.
  5. New purpose. In recovery you’ll likely discover a whole new purpose for your life.
  6. Self-confidence. You feel empowered in sobriety, as if you’ve discovered an inner strength you never knew you had.
  7. Better finances. You will be able to save money by not buying alcohol, and can start focusing on reducing debt and saving.
  8. New hope. In recovery, you can see a bright future and will start to make some plans and set new goals.

If you are considering sobriety, don’t try to quit alcohol cold turkey. Instead, take that first step by seeking out some expert support to help you safely complete the detox process. 

Capo by The Sea Alcohol Recovery Program

Capo by The Sea is a leading residential alcohol addiction recovery program that can guide you through the detox and withdrawal process. If you or a family member has struggled with an alcohol use disorder, reach out to us today at (888) 529-2114