Giving up alcohol is one of the best decisions you can make for your mind, body, and spirit. But quitting cold turkey can come with dangerous consequences, especially if you’ve been drinking a lot over a long period of time. Your body needs time to adjust to being alcohol-free, and without proper medical support, the detox period can be painful, terrifying, and potentially deadly. So if you’ve decided to stop drinking, make sure you do it the right way.
What happens to your body when you quit alcohol cold turkey
If you struggle with alcohol addiction and abuse, this means you have developed a physical dependence on alcohol. If you abruptly stop drinking, your body will go into withdrawal. As your central nervous system grows accustomed to functioning without the depressive effects of alcohol, you’ll experience uncomfortable mental and physical problems. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to extremely severe, usually appearing within eight hours after the last drink, and potentially lasting for days.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly
According to the National Institute of Health, it’s estimated that about 2 million people experience the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal every year. Milder symptoms include anxiety, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. But about 10 percent of those who experience withdrawal have severe withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, fever, and rapid breathing. Without treatment, withdrawal can lead to tonic-clonic seizures, and in some cases, cause a deadly condition called delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens is an extremely serious complication of withdrawal that causes hallucinations, confusion, intense fear, and sensitivity to light and sound. It may also result in a change in heart rhythm that can lead to cardiac arrest. Some estimates say that up to 5% of patients who experience delirium tremens die from their symptoms. However, the risk of death is significantly reduced with proper medical support.
Detox from alcohol in a safe environment
Because alcohol withdrawal can be so dangerous, it’s best to undergo detox in a safe, supervised medical environment. With round-the-clock care and observation, doctors and therapists can oversee your condition and determine the best course of treatment to alleviate symptoms and keep you healthy.
Medications that are often used to manage detox include sedatives to induce calm and relieve anxiety. Doctors may also hydrate and nourish you with IV fluids and vitamins, since you are unlikely to be able to eat or drink during the worst of your symptoms. After your detox is complete, you can safely transfer to a rehabilitation program to begin your lifelong journey toward sobriety.
Alcohol treatment studies at the Pearson Center can help you stop drinking
At the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research, we’re committed to the fight against the deadly disease of alcohol addiction. Through innovative alcohol treatment studies, we are able to contribute to the development of new methods of helping people quit alcohol and remain sober for the rest of their lives.
If you’re struggling with alcohol abuse and you’re ready to stop drinking, contact the Pearson Center at (858) 784-7867 to apply for our alcohol treatment study in San Diego. Participants receive one-on-one counseling, study medication, and compensation to help pay for time and travel expenses. Working together, we can help you overcome your addiction to alcohol. And your participation in our studies can help lead to relief for others as well.