The dangers of quitting opiates cold turkey antiemetic medications

A major component of this problem is the fact that opiate addiction can develop surprisingly quickly — in as few as one to two weeks of regular use — so that people often become addicted even when they think they’re still in safe territory with their drug use.

That’s why quitting cold turkey is almost always a bad idea. Even if you do all of your preparation and have the determination to see it through to the end, you still risk uncomfortable and painful side effects that can cause you to lose your will. Also, without professional guidance and addiction therapy, you’ll be much more likely to relapse later on.

In the brain, opiates bind to specific opiate receptors that usually govern things like mood, emotion, feelings of reward and the natural pain response. When external opiates hit these receptors, they cause them to over-fire, leading in the short term to feelings of euphoria and in the longer term to decreased physical and emotional responses to the normal sources of pleasure and reward.


With regular opiate use, your brain becomes rewired in such a way that the drug becomes your primary source of pleasure in life. All other thoughts and activities start to fall by the wayside, and your entire consciousness gradually shifts its focus, placing abnormally high emphasis on obtaining and taking opiate drugs.

All of this can happen within just a few days of regular use. And what makes opiate addiction so severe is the rapid increase in tolerance that follows. Within a week of taking the drug daily, you may already find that you need twice as much to achieve the same effect. And if you can get your hands on that amount regularly, your addiction will become that much more severe.

The severe addictive effects of opioids result from your body‘s natural tendency to try to create homeostasis (i.e., internal balance). When you take drugs regularly, your body readjusts its habitual functioning to accommodate the external substance. Thus, when you suddenly stop taking the drug, your body falls off a cliff. Or, to use a different metaphor, it’s as if the wall you’ve been leaning on suddenly crumbles.

By far, the biggest risk during the detox period is that you’ll relapse. People who quit cold turkey usually start off feeling quite strong and determined, but once they get into the throes of withdrawal, they tend to become very different people. Many people reach a point where they will do anything to get more of the drug, even if it involves hurting themselves or others.

And when you relapse soon after going cold turkey, you may be risking your life. While those withdrawal symptoms may seem bad, they’re actually the outward effects of your body returning to an internal state of normalcy. Thus, after just two to three days, your tolerance for the drug may already be substantially lower than it was before, so if you take the dosage you usually take, you risk overdose.

While withdrawal is not directly fatal, there are cases of addicts dying during the withdrawal period. This usually happens when addicts allow their bodies to fall into a state of poor health, so that the throes of withdrawal destabilize the body even further, leaving the addict open to infections and other complications. Other addicts fail to keep themselves properly hydrated during the withdrawal process, leading to potentially fatal electrolyte disturbances.