Dangers of Going Cold Turkey from Alcohol

What are the Dangers of Going Cold Turkey from Alcohol?

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, one in every 12 people living in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorder, which encompasses the abuse and dependence to the substance. Many people believe that stopping just requires that the person doesn’t drink anymore, but stopping alcohol is often a very risky time due to gravity of the effects that alcohol has on the body. Going cold turkey from alcohol can actually put a person’s life at risk.

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In this article, we will explore the dangers of going cold turkey from alcohol, what the symptoms of withdrawal are, and how one should detox to reduce the risk.

Why Is Alcohol Detox Dangerous?

So, why does a detox from alcohol cause so many problems?  The answer lies in what extended alcohol abuse does to the body. When alcohol is abused, it causes the GABA and dopamine levels to increase. GABA is responsible for controlling and reducing stress and anxiety reactions while dopamine controls memory, learning, motivation, sleep and pleasure. Of course, a higher GABA receptor count isn’t natural, and in response, the body increases the levels of glutamate. However, high levels of glutamate can cause restlessness, anxiety, pain amplification, and poor concentration among other side effects.

The period in which the body tries to rectify its imbalance of glutamate, GABA receptors and dopamine levels is what also causes the common withdrawal symptoms that people have when stopping with an alcohol dependence.

Going Cold Turkey from Alcohol

Dependence to alcohol signifies, among other things, that the person will experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop drinking. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, 3 to 5 percent of people who experience withdrawal symptoms from going cold turkey from alcohol are met with life-threatening symptoms known as delirium tremens (DTs). DTs are the real danger of going cold turkey from alcohol, but along with DTs, a person will have many more withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of DTs include:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hyperthermia
  • Fever
  • Cardiac arrythmias

Others milder withdrawal symptoms during detox from alcohol include the following:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Short term memory loss
  • Clammy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of apatite
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Heavy sweating
  • Tremors

Once a person has stopped drinking, the symptoms begin to appear after about 8 hours have elapsed. The peak of the symptoms, and the time when DTs potentially appear, happens after about 2 to 3 days. The entire experience usually lasts for roughly 5 to 7 days. During this time, if the person isn’t in a medical detox program, there is also a risk of malnutrition due to the lack of appetite.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

Due to the often-dangerous side effects of quitting alcohol cold turkey, professional help is essential. Not only does an addict require around-the-clock medical care to ensure that their physical health is being kept within safe limits, but alcohol withdrawal treatment can assist with reducing withdrawal symptoms, making the entire process much easier to get through.

A rehab achieves this by introducing various medications to the treatment. Medications such as benzodiazepines are utilized to treat the more severe symptoms such as the intense anxiety and depression that is often experienced during detox. Many of the medications used essentially help to taper the individual off alcohol to reduce the shock to their system.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.