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Quitting Drinking Cold Turkey: 7 Myths to Know

There’s an estimated 14 million Americans suffering from alcoholism. Some studies report numbers as high as 18 million. If you’re suffering from the effects of abusing alcohol, you’re not alone. Alcohol is one of the easiest drugs to fall victim to and one of the most difficult drugs to quit given its social acceptance and widespread availability. Not only is alcohol easy to get addicted to, it can also be dangerous to quit. Alcohol is one of only a few drugs with withdrawal symptoms that can lead to death. Unfortunately, many alcoholics attempt to quit drinking cold turkey, which puts them at the highest risk for grave consequences. There are plenty of myths out there concerning quitting cold turkey. Read on to learn the truth about 7 of the most common myths.

1. Quitting cold turkey is the best way.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Quitting cold turkey is never recommended and strongly advised against. Your body will go through withdrawal symptoms, and these symptoms can include life threatening ones, such as seizures or gastric bleeding, the two most common ways people quitting alcohol die. In fact, before you enter our drug detox rehab we’ll advise you to wait until you arrive to quit drinking. The safest way to quit alcohol is gradually with the help of medicines and nutritional supplements that will prevent life-threatening symptoms.

2. I can do it on my own.

Many who attempt to quit alcohol cold turkey believe that they can safely do it on their own. This is a profoundly dangerous myth. You can’t do it safely on your own, no matter how little or how infrequently you drink. Those attempting to quit on their own or at higher risk for severe relapse, due to the lack of accountability.  Withdrawing from abuse is just as strenuous psychologically than it is physically, so having the support of others is very crucial. Seeking treatment at The Ranch PA’s drug recovery center gives you the proper support and medical attention you need to safely detox.

3. I quit before with minor withdrawal symptoms so my body can handle it.

It’s been proven that those quitting cold turkey and experiencing seizures and delirium are more likely to have gone through detox in the past. What this important correlation tells us is that the more times you quit cold turkey, the more at risk you are to experience life-threatening symptoms. Just because you quit cold turkey in the past and didn’t experience major withdrawal symptoms is not an indication of how you’ll experience detox in the future. If fact, it’s a good indication you’ll experience more severe symptoms. This is called kindling. The binge drinkers that tell others and believe themselves that they do not have a drinking problem are at the most risk.

4. Quitting cold turkey should be easy because I only get drunk on the weekends.

If you’re a binge drinker, you may believe quitting cold turkey will be easy since you go most of the week without a drink. This is the typical mindset of many college-aged young adults who party on the weekends and study during the week. However, this is also one of the most dangerous mindsets. As long as you’re exposing your brain and body to alcohol on a regular basis, especially if in large amounts, you are still at risk for serious withdrawal symptoms. In fact, binge drinking, with its repeated periods of intoxication followed by detox, has profound effects on the brain, resulting in an increased risk of seizures and cognitive deficits. In essence, as a binge drinker, you are at higher risk of serious complications should you quit cold turkey.

5. I haven’t had a drink in a couple of days and I’ve experienced only minor symptoms so I should be fine.

The most serious results of quitting cold turkey may not develop until five days later. Delirium tremens, or “DT’s” as they are commonly called, include profound confusion and disorientation, hallucinations, hyperactivity, seizures and extreme disturbances of the cardiovascular system. Even if you’ve only experienced minor symptoms, or perhaps none at all, it does not mean you are not at risk of a grand mal seizure, heart attack, or stroke. Do not make the mistake of waiting. The risks are simply too critical to postpone getting help.

6. I have friends to stay with me while I detox, so I don’t need to go to a detox center.

It’s great that you’re trying to be responsible and detox under the supervision of others, but even your best friends and most trusted family members can’t provide the supervision you need. To the untrained eye, telltale signs of withdrawal may seem like manageable side effects of quitting alcohol cold turkey. If you find yourself questioning, “Is it dangerous to quit alcohol cold turkey?” be aware that it is dangerous. No amount of supervision can take the place of medically monitored detox. Some signs that initially appear mild may actually be the warning signs of more serious withdrawal symptoms yet to occur. For example, delirium tremens, which may start out with barely noticeable changes in mood or sleep patterns, can quickly become dangerous and result in seizures and heart attacks. You need medical professionals to supervise you during detox so you can safely begin your alcohol addiction recovery. Many individuals experiencing cold turkey alcohol withdrawals do not get the proper care and assistance that they need, even while surrounded with well-intentioned family or friends. A properly trained team of medical professionals can set you on the path to fully heal and take your life back.

7. Paying to go to an alcohol detox center doesn’t make sense when I can just stop drinking at home.

This logic is understandable, considering the many expenses that households need to account for on a monthly basis. However, if you don’t pay to safely detox at a professional detox facility, it’s very likely that you’ll end up in the emergency room or hospital due to the withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience. Those medical bills certainly aren’t going to be any cheaper than the cost of detoxing at a respectable facility. Why put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of saving a little bit of money? Go to a detox center and detox the correct way, and you won’t end up in the emergency room with the medical expenses of an ambulance ride and a hospital room weighing on your mind.

Evidence-Based Steps to Quit Drinking

The first step in the long path of recovery is admitting you have a problem, however, acknowledgment, willpower or resolve are not enough to quit drinking. Withdrawal is difficult and cravings can be overwhelming. A strategy reliant on willpower or any other “just say no” approach is simply not going to work. It is paramount to seek evidence-based approaches. Medication: Three medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for alcoholism treatment. Marketed as Revia in pill form and Vivitrol as a once-monthly injection, naltrexone blocks the euphoria or pleasure people experience when they drink alcohol, thereby helping to reduce cravings. Although the drug Campral (acamprosate) does not help people quit drinking, evidence shows it reduces the physical distress and emotional discomfort typically associated with alcohol cessation. Antabuse (disulfiram) causes a severe adverse reaction when someone taking the medication consumes alcohol. Instead of reducing craving, the medication reinforces aversion to alcohol by causing serious side effects such as flushing, nausea, vomiting, headaches, palpitations and an array of other troubling consequences. Due to possible severe reactions, disulfiram should not be used by anyone with a history of severe heart disease, psychosis or an allergy to the medication. Combined Behavioral Intervention: Psychotherapeutic interventions integrating several approaches have been shown to be effective. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement and techniques to enhance mutual help group participation. Support Groups: Many people find success by participating in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), while others prefer non 12-step approaches. You don’t have to stop drinking before you go to your first meeting. Support groups are an integral component of professional treatment and aftercare to help individuals in recovery maintain abstinence. Avoid Enablers and Triggers: Do not continue to hang out with drinking buddies, go to bars or other places where you drank and do not keep alcohol at home. Find enjoyable hobbies and compelling activities to keep yourself busy. Be aware that some of your old friends may feel threatened by your decision to quit, because this will force them to call into question their own drinking. You may have to avoid contact with these people while you are in your most fragile period, or forever, if they cannot support your abstinence and continue to be triggers. Inpatient and Residential Alcohol Detox: An inpatient or residential treatment facility with safe, medically supervised detox is the best option for individuals with alcohol addiction or binge drinkers. Benefits include around-the-clock monitoring in a home-like setting, individualized treatment plans, private detox rooms if necessary, the use of evidence-based medications and alternative approaches such as biofeedback, massage and acupuncture to ease withdrawal symptoms. Start your alcoholism recovery today by speaking confidentially to a The Ranch PA recovery advisor.

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