What Happens if I Quit Painkillers Cold Turkey?

September 30, 2020

When someone decides to finally say “no” to addiction, their first impulse may be to flush their painkillers down the drain and go through a few days of withdrawal on sheer willpower alone. Quitting cold turkey may be one of the oldest methods of fighting addiction, but experts agree that it’s not the most effective. Plus, trying to handle severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings on your own can be downright dangerous.

Extreme Withdrawal Symptoms

The phrase “quitting cold turkey” means suddenly stopping your consumption of a substance without any outside assistance. Whether you’re addicted to painkillers or something else, your body goes through a detoxification period when you give that substance up. During this time, your body attempts to purge all physical cravings for that addictive substance from your system.

Detoxification without help means you’ll experience several painful and difficult symptoms as your body breaks free of substance dependence. Withdrawal from painkillers can be extremely uncomfortable and include the following physical and psychological side effects:


  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Goosebumps
  • Shakiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Uncontrollable yawning
  • Upset stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Sudden mood shifts
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression


Greater Potential for Relapse

These physical and emotional aspects of withdrawal are often too much for someone to handle on their own. Because of this, many people addicted to painkillers will resume their use to stop the terrible withdrawal symptoms. Even if they had every intention of quitting, relapse seems their best option to stop the pain.

Higher Risk of Overdose and Death

Few people realize that when you stop using opioids — even for a short time — your tolerance for these drugs lowers while your cravings often remain the same. That means it takes fewer painkillers than before to get high. So, if you take a dose of painkillers that would have been tolerable before your detox, you put yourself at risk of overdose.

An overdose of prescription opioids can interfere with your body’s respiratory system and cause you to stop breathing. So, what started as a good faith effort to quit taking painkillers on your own could lead to a fatal overdose.

Find a Safer Path to Recovery at AppleGate Recovery

If you’re ready to quit, you don’t have to face this critical and brave decision alone. While some people successfully quit painkillers without assistance, there is a better and safer way. At AppleGate Recovery, we specialize in medication-assisted treatment. Our programs are designed to control and even eliminate many of the withdrawal symptoms that cause people to relapse.

Along with these effective prescriptions, we also provide counseling services. Counseling teaches you vital skills to help you avoid relapse. You’ll also receive support and encouragement every step of the way so that you’re never alone on your recovery journey.

Quitting cold turkey is not the only solution to addiction. Contact us today to begin your recovery from painkillers.

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