Let’s start by saying there is nothing wrong with trying to quit cold turkey. Whatever it takes to give quitting a try, whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, or a similar addiction, is worth pursuing.
For those who don’t know, “quitting cold turkey” refers to putting an immediate end to an addictive habit. A person goes from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day to none with no in-between. Similarly, someone who completely stops drinking one day or ceases to eat beloved junk food out of the blue is essentially quitting cold turkey.
The concept sounds attractive to those who want a clean break from their bad habit, rather than attempt to phase it out. While there are benefits to quitting cold turkey, the statistics aren’t promising. Nearly 95% of those who attempt to quit smoking this way wind up going back within a year.
The low odds of success at quitting cold turkey is a testament to the power of addiction, particularly addictions which derive their stubbornness from a specific chemical. In the case of tobacco, the chemical in question is nicotine and it manipulates the way the brain produces dopamine, a chemical responsible for inducing feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
When the human body grows accustomed to the daily delivery of nicotine and the dopamine it produces, it becomes upset when this delivery system abruptly ends. This leads to a series of symptoms we associate with withdrawal: irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, and headaches.
It’s for these reasons that quitting cold turkey – while effective for some people – is not advisable for the majority of those currently addicted to nicotine and other drugs. What’s more, several options exist to help people wean off cigarettes and essentially phase out their addiction, so there are plenty of alternatives.
For example, smokers could make the switch to vape. Not only are there always great vape juice deals online, but e-juice also comes in a variety of flavors and nicotine concentrations. Starting with a concentration comparable to a typical cigarette, users can dial down the amount of nicotine with every new order. Over time, they find themselves no longer craving the same amount of nicotine they did while smoking. This puts them on a more solid path towards quitting.
Another option for those who want to quit smoking without doing so cold turkey is nicotine replacement therapy. Similar to e-cigarettes, NRTs provide the person with a source of nicotine without the harmful carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Popular NRTs include the nicotine patch and nicotine chewing gum.
The last line of defense for many people attempting to quit smoking is to take prescription medication. The FDA currently approves two different medications as smoking cessation aids. One is bupropion, sold under the brand names Wellbutrin and Zyban. The other is varenicline, sold under the brand names Chantix and Champix. While bupropion simply helps reduce nicotine cravings, varenicline reduces cravings while also reducing the pleasurable sensations associated with smoking. These medicines allow the user to keep smoking with the expectation they slowly reduce the amount they smoke until they’ve completely quit.
Quitting smoking, or any deadly or otherwise dangerous habit, is worth trying by any means necessary. If this means quitting cold turkey, then so be it. Just don’t be surprised if quitting cold turkey doesn’t work. What’s more, don’t let it be an excuse for not trying other options which allow for smoking to be phased out of your life. One of these options may just be the one that gets you to quit once and for all.