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The Dangers Of “Cold-Turkey” Alcohol Withdrawal

Published on June 25, 2021
The Dangers Of Quitting Alcohol "Cold-Turkey" & Alcohol Withdrawal

Those who abruptly stop drinking alcohol after a long period of heavy drinking are at a higher risk of relapse. This is why it is never recommended for anyone to quit “cold turkey,” as numerous problems can arise

In fact, there are quite a few dangers associated with the “cold turkey” method, especially for those who have alcohol dependence. 

A person suffering from addiction may try to simply stop alcohol abuse quickly and forcefully. Unfortunately, this sudden change can leave you with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Some common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • nausea
  • tremors
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • insomnia

These common symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may also present themselves at the beginning stages of alcohol withdrawal. 

Acute Withdrawal 

Quitting alcohol cold turkey can cause acute withdrawal syndrome. With it comes a variety of complications such as:

The symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome can begin as quickly as 6 hours after the person stops alcohol use. 

Delirium Tremens 

Delirium tremens, a more severe form of alcohol withdrawal, can cause life-threatening problems such as:

Cardiovascular Complications

Heavy drinkers who have developed an alcohol use disorder may also experience cardiovascular complications. When you have persistent alcohol consumption and suddenly stop drinking, you may experience arrhythmia, a rapid heart rate, and even a heart attack. 

It’s also possible that you’ll have fluctuations with your blood pressure and body temperature. This is why it’s imperative that you seek medical attention if you develop severe withdrawal symptoms—a detox program may be necessary. 

Mental Health Issues

Trying to quit alcohol “cold turkey” can also cause harm to your mental health. Since alcohol is a depressant and affects the central nervous system, many enjoy the intoxicating effects of alcohol. However, drinking alcohol can cause changes in brain chemistry and neurotransmitter activity.


Depression and anxiety are two of the common mental health conditions you may experience during withdrawal. With depression, you may have difficulty sleeping, develop hallucinations, and have bouts of insomnia. 


Those who have anxiety may notice changes in their perception and mood. It’s also possible to develop rapid breathing and hyperventilation. 

While some experience these serious symptoms, others may have panic attacks brought on by disturbances of mood and stress. Doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines in the short-term to help with anxiety during the withdrawal process.

Alcohol Detox For Withdrawal

Before you take your last drink and try to quit “cold turkey,” consider contacting medical professionals who can assist you with substance abuse treatment. 

The detoxification process at a treatment facility addresses alcohol addiction or substance use disorder by providing medical supervision and support during withdrawal. 

To learn more about our inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs, please connect with us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Australian Prescriber - Home Detox - Supporting Patients to Overcome Alcohol Addiction
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Alcohol Basics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Exploring Myths About Drug Abuse
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol Withdrawal

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