Dangers of Cold Turkey Detox

Women sitting with her head down, resting her forehead in her hand. She looks depressed and distraught.

Chronic drug and alcohol use changes brain chemistry and the way that the central nervous system functions by interfering with the normal transmission, production, and reabsorption of its chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters. In time, the brain may expect these substances to be there in order to keep functioning in what it now thinks of as “normal.”

When these drugs then wear off, levels of these neurotransmitters are changed again, which can lead to negative side effects and drug cravings. This is called withdrawal. Much of the time, these withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of how the “high” or intoxication makes a person feel. In some cases, withdrawal can be highly dangerous.

This page will discuss the symptoms and risks of withdrawal from certain substances, and how withdrawal is safely treated in a medical detox program.

Potential Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal symptoms are numerous and can include both physical and emotional complications that can vary in intensity, severity, and duration.

The duration and severity of drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms depend on several contributing factors, including:

  • The patient’s metabolism.
  • How long and to what extent the patient has been misusing substances.
  • Which substances the patient has been misusing.
  • The presence of co-occurring mental health conditions or physical comorbidities.
  • Family history of addiction.

Examples of potential physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue or agitation.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Tremors.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Irregular heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Sweating.
  • Weight loss or weight gain.
  • Seizures.

When alcohol is suddenly stopped after someone has built a severe dependency, they may experience delirium tremens (DTs), a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. DTs can cause psychosis, high fever, hallucinations, severe confusion, and seizures that can be fatal. DTs can be extremely unpredictable, popping up days after the last use of alcohol. The mortality rate for DTs is between 5 percent and 25 percent, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports.

Emotional Difficulties during Detox

worried young personCoupled with difficult and even potentially dangerous physical withdrawal symptoms are emotional and psychological symptoms. Quitting drugs cold turkey can induce powerful and intense drug cravings. These cravings can make it difficult to abstain from drugs and may lead to a relapse, or a return to drug use.

Relapse can be especially dangerous after a period of sobriety, as the body and brain may have already begun to reset themselves and tolerance may be lowered. If a person then returns to using drugs at previous amounts, overdose can occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls drug overdose in the United States an epidemic, as nearly 50,000 people died in 2014 due to overdose.

Additionally, co-occurring mental illness symptoms may be heightened during drug withdrawal, and stopping drugs cold turkey can increase the odds for a negative psychiatric reaction.

Possible psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.
  • Memory issues.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Difficulties feeling pleasure.
  • Nightmares and vivid dreams.
  • Aggression and violent outbursts.
  • Hostility.
  • Personality shift.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Delirium.

Medically Assisted Detox

Drug detox does not have to be difficult and dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings can be managed with pharmacological, supportive, and therapeutic methods that can be provided during medical detox.

Our medical detox facility near Tampa offers around-the-clock supervision and care to aid in physical stabilization. This is often considered the highest standard of care for withdrawal.

In stark contrast to quitting drugs cold turkey in one’s home, medical detox provides a safe environment where trained medical professionals are on hand to monitor vital signs, address mental health needs, and handle any complications that may crop up during withdrawal.

In general, a detox program lasts 3-7 days on average, depending on the individual’s needs.

While crucial for many people suffering from addiction, medical detox is often just the first step in a treatment program. It can stabilize someone before they engage in a comprehensive plan that can foster a long recovery. River Oaks Treatment Center near Tampa, Florida offers medical detox in addition to several other levels of addiction treatment that utilize evidence-based treatment methods to help patients achieve long-term sobriety.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use issues and are unsure of where to turn, call us today at . River Oaks—one of American Addiction Centers’ Florida medical detox and rehab centers—can help you overcome addiction and find long-term recovery. Call us today to learn more about addiction treatment near you or online.

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