What Will Happen if I Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

What Will Happen if I Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?

Quitting cold turkey might seem like the easiest route, but is it the one that’s best for you? While many avenues to quit drinking take longer and might seem harder, it’s important to be informed, so that you can choose the avenue that will work best for you. There are some risks that come with quitting cold turkey, and so, whether you’re looking into for yourself or for a loved one, this article aims to help you understand those risks so you can make the best choice for yourself.

Understanding What Happens When You Quit Drinking Alcohol Cold Turkey

If you're contemplating what happens if you quit drinking cold turkey, it's crucial to be aware of the potential health implications. It often has detrimental effects on an individual's physical and mental health, as well as their relationships and overall well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol dependence, you may have considered the option of quitting drinking cold turkey. However, it's essential to understand this approach's potential risks and withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol dependence is characterized by a compelling urge to consume alcohol despite being aware of its harmful consequences. It encompasses both physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.

  • Physical dependence on alcohol occurs when the body becomes accustomed to the continuous presence of alcohol and struggles to function normally without it. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is abruptly ceased.
  • Psychological dependence refers to the emotional and mental reliance on alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, or other feelings.

The Risks of Quitting Drinking Cold Turkey: What to Expect

While quitting alcohol cold turkey may seem like the easiest approach, it carries significant risks. When an individual who has been physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol suddenly stops drinking, their body can react negatively to the sudden deprivation. This can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, some of which can even be life-threatening.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild discomforts like sweating, nausea, and insomnia to more severe complications such as seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). Other potential risks include heart-related issues and complications that can exacerbate underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Cold Turkey

The symptoms of quitting drinking alcohol can vary in intensity and duration depending on the individual's level of dependence and overall health. When exploring what happens if you quit drinking cold turkey, it's important to consider both the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms of sudden alcohol cessation.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia

These symptoms typically manifest within a few hours after the last drink and can persist for days or even weeks.

Discussing what happens when you quit drinking cold turkey, experts often highlight the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens (DTs). Delirium tremens is a critical and potentially life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal, characterized by confusion and hallucinations, that can develop within one to four days after quitting cold turkey. DTs have a higher mortality rate than any other withdrawal symptom. Symptoms of DTs include high fever, hallucinations, disorientation, seizures, and deep sleep.

If you or someone you know have been experiencing DTs, contact a physician immediately.

Medical Supervision and Support During Withdrawal

Due to the potential risks and complications associated with alcohol withdrawal, medical supervision and support are crucial during the detoxification process. The process of what happens when you quit drinking alcohol cold turkey can significantly vary from person to person, depending on numerous factors like the duration and intensity of alcohol use. It is strongly recommended that individuals with a history of heavy alcohol abuse or previous experiences with severe withdrawal symptoms seek professional help in an inpatient rehabilitation center.

In an inpatient treatment facility, medical professionals can closely monitor withdrawal symptoms and provide appropriate interventions to ease their intensity. This setting ensures a safe and supportive environment where individuals can receive the necessary care and support to navigate the challenges of alcohol withdrawal. Moreover, it eliminates the temptation and opportunity to relapse during the withdrawal process.

Alternative Approaches to Quitting Drinking Cold Turkey

While quitting drinking alcohol cold turkey is not recommended, there are safer and more effective approaches to quitting drinking. Two standard methods include gradual reduction and tapering off alcohol, as well as medical detoxification.

  • Gradual reduction involves slowly decreasing the amount of alcohol consumed over time, allowing the body to adjust to lower levels of alcohol. This approach can be practical for individuals with mild to moderate alcohol dependence.
  • Medical detoxification involves professional supervision and the use of medication to manage withdrawal symptoms. This method is typically conducted in specialized facilities and provides a comprehensive approach to detoxification, including nutritional support and counseling.

Supportive Measures for Alcohol Withdrawal

In addition to medical interventions, implementing supportive measures and lifestyle changes can significantly assist individuals during alcohol withdrawal. These measures aim to improve physical health, foster mental well-being, and reduce the discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms.

Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a nutritious diet, engaging in regular exercise, prioritizing adequate sleep, and staying hydrated can contribute to the overall well-being of individuals going through alcohol withdrawal. Seeking professional help through counseling or therapy offered by alcohol detox centers can provide essential emotional support and coping strategies during this challenging journey. Joining support groups can also create a sense of community and solidarity, allowing individuals to share experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges.


Long-Term Recovery and Relapse Prevention

While detoxification is an essential first step, it is not sufficient to support long-term recovery from alcohol addiction. Knowing what to expect when you quit drinking cold turkey can help individuals mentally and physically prepare for the challenging journey ahead. To maintain sobriety over time and prevent relapse, ongoing treatment and support are crucial.

Recovery looks different for everyone, but it often involves a combination of:

  • Behavioral therapies
  • Counseling
  • Mutual-help group participation
  • Medication
  • Complementary therapies

Implementing coping strategies to handle triggers, continuing with counseling or therapy, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying connected with support groups are all strategies that can aid in maintaining sobriety. Ongoing support from professionals, family, or support groups is vital in the journey to recovery. Continuous counseling can provide essential tools to manage cravings, handle stress, and prevent relapse.

Benefits of Seeking Professional Help for Alcohol Addiction

Articles focusing on what to expect when you quit drinking cold turkey often emphasize the importance of seeking professional support during this period. Seeking professional help for alcohol addiction offers numerous benefits. In an inpatient rehabilitation center, individuals receive comprehensive care and support from a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, therapists, and counselors. These professionals can provide personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual's specific needs and challenges.

In addition to addressing the physical aspects of alcohol addiction, comprehensive treatment programs also focus on the psychological and emotional factors that contribute to alcohol dependence. Through evidence-based therapies such as

individuals can learn valuable skills to manage cravings, cope with stress, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.


Understanding the consequences of quitting drinking cold turkey can equip you for handling severe alcohol dependency situations. The risk of intense withdrawal symptoms and complications highlights the need for expert oversight and support through the detox process. A gradual tapering off and medically supervised detox are recommended over the abrupt cessation of alcohol, known as going cold turkey.

Recovery from alcohol addiction requires ongoing support, counseling, and lifestyle changes to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse. Seeking professional help provides individuals with the necessary tools and resources to navigate the challenges of alcohol withdrawal and establish a solid foundation for long-term recovery.

Remember, you don't have to face alcohol addiction alone. Reach out to a trusted healthcare professional or treatment center to start your journey towards a healthier, alcohol-free life.


American Addiction Centers - Risks and Dangers of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey

Pacific Crest Trail Detox - Is It Safe To Go Cold Turkey on Alcohol?

Clearview Treatment Programs - What Happens When a Severe Alcoholic Goes Cold Turkey?

The smarter way to stay accountable
Real-time group support and personalized feedback to help you overcome addiction — no matter how many times you’ve tried.
Learn Morean iphone with the text identify where boundaries may have slipped

Find Effective, Evidence-Based Treatment in the Relay Program for Alcohol Addiction

There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on alcohol. These urges and compulsive behaviors can control your life, but you can take back control. Relay's addiction recovery program provides a comprehensive, outpatient approach to behavioral change - at home, at your own pace. To each new program member, we provide a personalized recovery plan, a peer support group, progress tracking, journaling, and intelligent insights about your behavior patterns, all within a simple and secure mobile app Our proven approach helps program members achieve the best chance at long-term recovery without the time or expense of rehab or therapy. Try the Relay program for free here; if you need help as you get set up, contact us now at

relay logo

Get connected and stay accountable
with peers

Join a team

A better way to recovery, right in your pocket.

a cell phone with a text message on the screen