Get Help Now - Confidential & Free Phone icon800-671-4304
Info iconWho Answers?

Is Quitting Cold Turkey Recommended?


Movies and TV like to play up the drama of detoxification by showing addicts sweating and sobbing while locked in the bedroom or bathroom of some grubby tenement. Their withdrawal symptoms leave them exhausted and they are forced to endure endless pain because someone has forced them to quit cold turkey by trapping them somewhere. Sure, at some point one person had to have gone through this, but it isn’t an accurate view and, unfortunately, it scares people away from detox. Quitting cold turkey is a term that refers to the act of entering detoxification abruptly and without medical assistance.

Essentially, you immediately stop taking drugs, do not undergo medically assisted withdrawal, and tough out the pain of your withdrawal symptoms until your body is clear of drugs. It is possible and there are people for whom it works. But, that doesn’t mean it is without negatives and you should research thoroughly before making decisions about your detox method.

If you know that you need treatment and you need to go through detoxification from drugs and/or alcohol, don’t be scared. It is an important first step and one you can make it through because millions of people have done so before you. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

For help finding support and resources, contact

Who Answers?

Detoxification Services

Quitting Cold Turkey

Some people do fine quitting cold turkey, but it’s not for everyone and isn’t advised for all addictions.

It is important that you know that detox services are not offered at all treatment centers. You do need help navigating the process so that you don’t end up in a program that won’t meet your needs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration performs a National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, which gather treatment data. According to their findings, the number of facilities providing any type of substance detoxification services was 2,581 (18 percent) out of the total respondents (14,148 facilities).

Of these facilities, the following percentages of them address detoxification from the listed substance:

In addition, of the treatment centers offering detoxification services, 79 percent of the facilities use medication as part of their program. That means 21 percent operate with cold turkey methods.

Social Detoxification

Of formal treatment programs, those termed social detoxification programs are most likely to have patients go cold turkey, although many of them do offer medically-assisted detox.

The SAMHSA reports: “Social detoxification programs are defined as short-term, nonmedical treatment services for individuals with substance use disorders.” As such, these programs provide room, board, and interpersonal support. However, beyond that, there is a lot of variety among their approaches, offerings, and philosophies.

Some of these programs offer onsite medical and nursing supervision, while other simply provide access to medical oversite via clinics, urgent care, or emergency treatment centers. Regardless, whatever the situation of the addiction and patient, there should be medical supervision for all detox programs, cold turkey or not.

For many communities, specifically the uninsured, and the homeless, this may be the only option of detoxification service available. It is definitely preferable to unsupervised, cold turkey detox. “In some large urban areas, social detoxification programs have longstanding, excellent reputations of providing high-quality supervision and nurturance for their clients.”

However, in some instances full hospitalization and medically assisted detox is the best course.


Although cold turkey detox can be effective and safe for many patients, there are those who risk their health by going cold turkey. Alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid users face extreme withdrawal symptoms and for safety and humanitarian reasons should seek out detox with 24-hour medical supervision. The rapid elimination of these substances from the users’ bodies can cause it to shut-down completely and that is why medical staff needs to be onsite and active in the detoxification.

If you feel like cold turkey detoxification or another method might work for you or if you need help fully researching detox, you should call at 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) . Everyone deserves the best chance at sobriety they can get and proper detox can start the whole process off on the right foot.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2013.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: 4 Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal From Specific Substances.
Get Help Today Phone icon 800-779-4314 Info icon Who Answers?