Alcohol Cold Turkey: Why You Should Consider It

Alcohol Cold Turkey: Why You Should Consider It

“I’ll drink to that”, “When I taste tequila”, “1,2,3, drink” - these aren’t catchphrases from the bar; they’re lyrics from pop songs! A Northwestern University study found that almost 1 in every 4 popular songs references alcohol, and typically in an encouraging manner.

With the songs on your radio as triggers, it can seem like the whole world is rooting against you quitting alcohol cold turkey. Even many rehab centers will teach that cold turkey alcohol recovery is impossible.

But, looking deeper, you’ll find that those voices all have their own motivations to keep you drinking alcohol.

If you’re curious about quitting alcohol cold turkey, read on to learn more about the factors you should consider, and why going cold turkey on alcohol might be the right approach for you.

What is the “cold turkey” approach to quitting alcohol?

The "cold turkey" approach to quitting alcohol refers to the method of abruptly stopping all alcohol consumption without any gradual reduction or tapering off. It is a decision to quit alcohol suddenly and completely. This approach is often the first instinct for people who are determined to break free from their dependency on alcohol and want to experience immediate changes in their life.

Quitting alcohol cold turkey requires a strong commitment and determination. It involves cutting off all access to alcohol and avoiding situations that may trigger cravings or temptations. Ultimately, the goal of cold turkey alcohol recovery is to eliminate alcohol entirely from your life and embrace a sober lifestyle.

Why do rehab centers say people should never quit alcohol cold turkey? (Hint: money!)

Rehab centers often advise against quitting alcohol cold turkey, and many say it’s flat-out impossible. This article is a perfect example, as it claims the following about the cold turkey method: “You can’t do it safely on your own, no matter how little or how infrequently you drink.”

This biased, absolute statement overlooks the nuance in individual lives. People drink for different reasons at different frequencies, and each are affected by alcohol in a unique way.

Rehab centers often teach that medical detox is the only way for people to quit alcohol. Although this is true for certain people with high levels of chemical dependency, this is by no means true for the whole population. These centers are incentivized to get everyone they can - even people who might be able to quit on their own using home remedies - into their programs so that they can bill insurance thousands of dollars and, in some cases, to monetize fearmongering about alcohol.

Most centers are not so morally depraved, but it’s important to consider your own circumstances and, with your personal situation in mind, determine whether cold turkey alcohol recovery is appropriate for you or not.

What are the real benefits of quitting alcohol cold turkey?

Because rehab centers spend thousands ranking their articles in search engines, you won’t often see this on Google, but the fact is that there are several benefits to quitting alcohol cold turkey.

  • Immediate chance to heal: One of the main advantages is the immediate removal of alcohol from your body. Alcohol abuse can have detrimental effects on the liver, heart, brain, and overall physical well-being. By quitting cold turkey, you give your body a chance to start healing and repairing itself.
  • Rapid mental improvement: Another benefit is the rapid improvement in mental clarity and emotional well-being. Alcohol can impair cognitive function and contribute to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. By quitting alcohol abruptly, you allow your brain to regain its balance, leading to increased mental focus, improved memory, and a more stable emotional state.
  • Financial savings: Additionally, quitting alcohol cold turkey can lead to significant financial savings. Alcohol consumption can be expensive, especially if it becomes a daily habit. By cutting out alcohol entirely, you can redirect those funds towards more fulfilling and healthy pursuits. The average American can save $3,000 annually by quitting alcohol, and for some, that number is far greater.


What are the risks of cold turkey alcohol recovery?

While quitting alcohol cold turkey can have its benefits, it also comes with certain risks, and these risks cannot be ignored as you consider cold turkey alcohol recovery.

The most significant risk is the potential for severe withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can range from mild to severe, with symptoms such as tremors, hallucinations, delirium tremens, and seizures. These symptoms can be life-threatening, especially for individuals with a long history of heavy drinking.

Another risk is the potential for relapse. Quitting alcohol abruptly without addressing the underlying reasons for the addiction can make it challenging to maintain long-term sobriety. Without proper support mechanisms, individuals may turn to alcohol again as a way to cope with stress, cravings, or difficult emotions. This could lead to binge drinking and increasing chemical dependency.

An additional risk is the impact of co-occurring mental health disorders. If “going cold turkey” could cause you to spiral into a depressive state or turn to other unhealthy behaviors to cope with the stressors of life, abrupt cessation of alcohol may leave a void that is filled with an even more negative behavior.

With that in mind, what has to be true for you to be a good fit for the cold turkey method?

Before considering the cold turkey method for quitting alcohol, certain factors need to be taken into account.

  1. Assess the level of alcohol dependency and any linked mental struggles. Individuals with a mild to moderate level of alcohol addiction and no co-occurring mental health disorders may be better suited for the cold turkey approach, as the withdrawal symptoms are less severe and manageable. Seek professional help to get an educated opinion on your personal situation with respect to dependency and co-occurring disorders.
  2. Consider the strength of your support system. In recovery, having a strong support system is vital. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your journey and provide emotional support can make a significant difference in your recovery. This support can come from friends, family, support groups, or even professional counselors. To determine whether  cold turkey alcohol recovery might be successful for you, you should evaluate this support system and ask yourself who you would turn to in recovery. If you find your support system is lacking, or desire additional help, check out Relay - a recovery program that will help you create a personalized recovery plan, match you into a peer support group, and help you track your progress and stay accountable in your journey to quit alcohol, whether using the cold turkey method or not.
  3. Determine the level of your personal commitment. Having a strong personal commitment to quitting alcohol is essential for cold turkey alcohol recovery to succeed. The cold turkey method requires discipline, determination, and a willingness to make significant changes in your lifestyle. It is crucial to be prepared for the challenges that may arise and remain committed to your goal of leading a sober life.


Quitting alcohol cold turkey is a decision that should not be taken lightly. While it can have immediate benefits such as improved health, mental clarity, and financial savings, it also comes with risks of severe withdrawal symptoms and potential relapse. It is important to assess your level of alcohol dependency, have a strong support system, and be personally committed to the journey before embarking on the cold turkey method.

If you feel that you are a good fit for quitting alcohol cold turkey, seek professional guidance and support to ensure a safe and successful recovery, and consider joining with peers to stay accountable. When you’re ready to start, check out this article to learn more about next steps and how to stop drinking cold turkey.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there are resources available to help you achieve a healthier, alcohol-free life.


National Institutes of Health - Alcohol Health Effects

GoodRx - Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Medical News Today - Is It Bad to Quit “Cold Turkey”?

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