Cold-turkey detox is when someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol suddenly quits with no viable, safe method of tapering off from a drug. Cold-turkey detox is incredibly harsh and can lead to severe and intense withdrawal symptoms that can last for a long time. Also, cold-turkey detox has a failure rate of up to 95%, meaning only 5% manage to avoid relapse. 60% of people who attend medical detox and rehab avoid relapse.
The first step in recovery from drug addiction is to stop the body and the brain’s physical dependence on the substance. It’s essential to understand the physiological mechanisms behind the disease of addiction to fully appreciate just how dangerous cold-turkey detox can be.
When a person takes a drug or becomes addicted to alcohol, there are many different neurochemical and biological responses the person goes through when they get high or drunk. Addictive substances can completely rewire the brain’s risk-reward pathways. The brain and the body quickly become accustomed to having the drug in the person’s system. When a person stops taking the addictive substance or tries to cut back, the brain and the body respond with withdrawal symptoms. Depending on what substance a person is addicted to, and how long and how severe an addiction they’ve had will influence the withdrawal timeline, and symptoms and severity.
When people become addicted to drugs and attempt to quit on their own, they are often optimistic and determined to get their life back on track. Unfortunately, their brain and body are working against them during the withdrawal phase. Painful and distressing symptoms can quickly compel a person to take only a small amount of the substance to find relief. Unfortunately, this continues the cycle of addiction. But medical intervention can help addicts overcome the withdrawal process and reach sobriety.
By detoxing in a medical facility, patients can have access to lifesaving medications that can help them safely taper or wean off a drug or alcohol. This can not only prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms from occurring, but can also increase the chances of withdrawal being successful, and preventing people from relapsing.