The Pros and Cons of Quitting Drugs or Alcohol “Cold Turkey”

If you’ve dealt with any addiction, from gambling or smoking to drugs and alcohol, you’ve seen this scenario played out: Someone you know or talk to finds out about your problem. They don’t have the same issue, so they say the same thing you’ve heard a million times. “Why don’t you just quit?”

Sure, it sounds easy to them. But, they do not deal with the mental and physical side effects of withdrawing from any addiction. And when it’s substance abuse, those symptoms can be painful and sometimes downright deadly.

Yet, many addicts think the only way they can effectively quit is “cold turkey.” The problem is that instantly stopping something your body is so used to having can be dangerous. Is it worth the potential complications? We’ll discuss the pros and cons of quitting drugs or alcohol “cold turkey” here.

1. First, the Cons of Quitting Alcohol With No Help

Although they’re often lumped into the same category, the withdrawal effects of alcohol aren’t the same as drugs. As the most frequently used addictive substance in the US, if not the world, alcoholics struggle with access in a way that drug users rarely see. 

Since alcohol isn’t just socially accepted, it’s expected in many circles, quitting drinking has unique challenges. But quitting alcohol cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms so intense that they could be deadly.

If you’ve tried to “just stop” in the past and found yourself quickly picking up a drink again, you’re not alone, and you may have saved your life. When you’ve become dependent on alcohol and then take it away instantly, your brain and body are in shock. Your brain expects it, and when you don’t give it the substances it’s used to, it creates cravings that are physically painful. These side effects, whether mild or severe, are discomforting enough to convince you to drink again.

Another important aspect to consider is the damage alcohol has already done to your body. If you’ve been a heavy drinker, you could have internal organ failure and other serious health issues. As odd as it sounds, your body is used to adapting to your alcohol intake alongside these issues. You’ll need medical supervision to monitor your health conditions.

Other factors, such as how long you’ve been addicted and how heavy a drinker you are, contribute to your recovery efforts. Importantly, your environment and support system are key to your success or downfall, as well. 

These factors are why many people choose to work with substance addiction experts, such as Studio Recovery, to get them through the initial withdrawals and medical complications.

2. The Dangers of Quitting Drugs Cold Turkey

Unlike alcohol, which is less likely to cause a deadly overdose by itself, every time you use illicit could be your last. For that reason, it’s wise to want to quit cold turkey. However, the withdrawal symptoms that come with this decision can make it difficult to do this without help.

The other side of this coin is that when you quit certain substances suddenly, the withdrawal symptoms themselves could be deadly. This fact is why doctors are supposed to wean patients off of prescription opioids.

Drugs that should never be stopped without a plan include:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Prescription painkillers or sedatives

Alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines are best quit with the help of a medical detox that tapers the substances off slowly from the body and brain. After the drugs are out of your system, specialists can help you manage the withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

All of these substances affect your central nervous system. Quitting suddenly can result in seizures, panic attacks, and deadly side effects.

3. The Pros of Cold Turkey Quitting

That’s not to say that you should use these cautions as a reason not to quit your addiction. If that’s your goal and you make the decision to never pick up an addictive substance again, we encourage you to follow through — safely.

Not everyone has the willpower to make such a courageous decision. When you’ve finally made the choice that you are at or don’t want to get to rock bottom, it’s a life-changing milestone. Still, you don’t want to fight this lifelong battle alone.

The pros of quitting cold turkey under trained supervision are unending. You’ll take control over your life once again, rebuild damaged relationships, and start over clean. 

And if you just started using a substance that is not on the above list, and you have the resolve to “just stop” without concern of medical complications, give it a try!


Drug and alcohol addiction is responsible for the destruction of millions of lives, both directly and indirectly. The fact that you want to stop using a dangerous substance before it causes more damage is the first step. Whether you quit cold turkey or not is up to you, but your recovery has a better chance of success if you do so with the help of experienced professionals.

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