Risks associated with going cold turkey for alcohol addiction

Risks associated with going cold turkey for alcohol addiction

The sudden demise of actor Nelsan Ellis, known for his association with HBO’s “True Blood,” in July 2017, sent shock waves all over. Known as a kind and live wire person, Ellis reportedly died due to a heart failure, a consequence of an alcohol withdrawal symptom that developed due to self-detox attempt at quitting alcohol through cold turkey approach. Like Ellis, millions of people across the United States attempt quitting alcohol by adopting a cold turkey approach, without realizing that it can become life threatening.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 17 million Americans are struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and sadly, only a fraction of them reach out for professional support. This can be attributed to the stigma attached to alcohol addiction and a fake conviction that one can come out of this addiction through cold turkey. Alcohol can induce fatal withdrawal symptoms if it is withdrawn abruptly and not tapered off gradually.

Here are some myths associated with cold turkey that one needs to be aware of before deciding to walk on the path to recovery:

Myth 1

Going cold turkey is simple and can be carried out without any support

When alcohol reaches the central nervous system, it elevates the level of four chemical messengers – serotonin, endorphins, dopamine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Serotonin is body’s natural anti-depressant while endorphins are responsible for alleviating pain sensations. Dopamine is responsible for acting on the reward system, which is associated with feelings of pleasure, learning, motivation, sleep and memory functions. On the other hand, GABA exerts a depressant effect. Higher levels of GABA lead to slower heart rate, slower respiratory rate and lower body temperature. When the production of all four neurotransmitters is increased due to alcohol consumption, a person feels high and thrilled as well as immune to stress and pain. The brain compensates this high concentration by declining the production of neurotransmitters. Now, the body or the brain demands more alcohol to maintain the high levels of neurotransmitters and this phenomenon is known as tolerance. However, when one stops taking alcohol abruptly, the neurotransmitters are ultimately depleted and there is a very strong urge to take alcohol so that the level of neurotransmitters could be built. When one is on self-detox, he or she is not equipped to handle these dire situations and therefore, this may lead to fatal consequences or a relapse.

Myth 2

Going cold turkey is easier for people drinking only during weekends

This is again a myth. A lot of students and young adults study throughout the week and indulge in binge drinking during the weekends. One must remember whether one is drinking through a week or during the weekends, as long as alcohol is getting in the body, one is susceptible to developing strong withdrawal symptoms.

Myth 3

Cold turkey can help on not drinking in last several days

One must understand that getting addicted to alcohol is easier than coming out of it. If one does not experience any immediate symptoms, one is still susceptible to developing delirium tremens, a state when one feels extremely confused, disoriented, hyperactive and hallucinated with profound cardiovascular disturbances. Cold turkey method can cause seizures, stroke and heart attack.

Myth 4

Going cold turkey can be accomplished at home under supervision of loved ones

No, this does not help. To a family member or any loved one, the withdrawal symptoms might appear passable, whereas, these could actually be red flags. Alcohol detoxification and addiction treatment necessitate close supervision under the guidance of trained medical experts and nothing compares to the care and guidance one can get at a rehab.

Myth 5

Going to rehab can get expensive

Going to a rehab for getting rid of an addiction can be a life-altering decision. However, a lot of people assume that one can easily achieve this at home, rather than spending thousands of dollars at a rehab. One must understand that a rehab follows a set of guidelines to ensure that an individual undergoes least complication whereas, self-detox is next to impossible because addiction is more about the chemical changes taking inside the brain, rather than the willpower.

Road to recovery

Addiction to alcohol is a chronic mental disorder and not an ordinary flu that can be easily managed without going to a doctor. Alcohol messes with the brain chemistry hence, to set it right, cold turkey can never help. The road to recovery involves multiple steps, each executed under the supervision of skilled medical professionals.

If you or your loved one is addicted to alcohol, contact the Rapid Detox Helpline for immediate assistance. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-403-5591 to find out the best detox treatment centers near you. You may also chat with our online representatives for expert advice regarding alcohol detox centers, with specialized programs customized to your needs.

Also read:

Removing the barriers to attain sobriety from alcohol addiction