Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey - Is It Dangerous?

Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey - Is It Dangerous?

It's happened once again....you've hit rock bottom. Whether you're on the outs with your significant other after a very intoxicated fight or looking at a revoked license due to a DWI, you've clearly experienced some very negative consequences as a result of your never-ending consumption of Miller Lite, Jack Daniels or whatever other drink of choice you happen to have. It's time to end substance abuse for good. But how to start? Some former addicts recommend baby steps, removing alcoholic beverages and other drugs from your system at a slow and steady pace that your body can handle. Others say that cold turkey is the better solution -- kind of like ripping off the bandage quickly and getting the pain over with. This approach can work, but only if you plan it in a way that minimizes the following potential hazards:

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Although typically not life-threatening, the withdrawal symptoms resulting from immediate cessation can be incredibly uncomfortable. This is particularly true for heavy drinkers who have not abstained in a long time. If you do decide to go for the all-at-once approach, expect to experience some level of anxiety of shakiness. This could begin as soon as a few hours after your last drink or up to several days after you've banned all alcoholic beverages from your life. The National Institute of Health also highlights nausea as a common symptom during the early stages of sobriety. Because this can lead to dehydration, you'll want to keep a water bottle at your side at all times.

Later on, you may find yourself party to alarming hallucinations, otherwise known as alcoholic hallucinosis. WebMD points out that, when these hallucinations occur, you'll be well aware that they aren't real. But that won't stop them from being bothersome! Finally, you will want to watch out for delirium tremens, which involve a rapid heartbeat, fever and sense of confusion. These arrive around 48 hours after cessation and can be life-threatening in some cases.


The withdrawal symptoms associated with the immediate cessation of alcoholic drinks are uncomfortable enough to make relapse an ever-present danger. This is particularly true in the first days and weeks following cessation, although it continues to be a problem later on as well. Experts are divided on what works better, with some advocating for drinking in moderation and others alleging that, for an alcoholic, moderation is not possible. If you think that the initial physical symptoms of no drinking might result in a relapse, consider spending those first days under medical supervision in a rehab facility.