What Happens When Quitting Painkillers Cold Turkey?

What Happens When Quitting Painkillers Cold Turkey?

One of the reasons why it is widely encouraged to abstain from drugs is because of how difficult it can be to stop using them. It is no secret that going from regular substance abuse to quitting painkillers cold turkey can produce a wide variety of negative withdrawal symptoms. This process can become so distressing both mentally and physically that many people who attempt to get sober wind up using again just to obtain some sense of relief. For some, this is the insidious cycle of addiction that they face, where they go from actively abusing drugs to attempting to get sober, only to go back to using drugs when the withdrawal symptoms become too much to bear. 

This is a constant battle that thousands of people hooked on painkillers face each day. Painkillers, meaning those prescription medications that are opioid-based and are used to treat physical pain, include OxyContin, Vicodin, Dilaudid, fentanyl, and more. These medications do have a place in medicine. They can be used to treat severe physical pain or pain associated with end of life. But, when abused, painkillers like these ones can completely destroy a person’s life and get them feeling trapped on a rollercoaster ride with no way off. 

Even though an addiction to painkillers is challenging, life-threatening, and overwhelming, it can be treated. Usually, the first step for anyone hooked on painkillers is detox, which is where the process of withdrawal begins. It is at that time, depending on how they have chosen to detox, that they might go cold turkey in hopes of kicking their habit once and for all. 

What Happens When Quitting Painkillers Cold Turkey? 

It is highly recommended to seek professional treatment or attend a detox center when looking to end painkiller addiction. There are a number of reasons why being under the care of professionals while withdrawing from painkillers. One of the most helpful reasons is being able to slowly detox off of painkillers. This is done with medications like Suboxone, Subutex, or methadone. All of these can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and curb cravings. These medications don’t magically make detox a walk in the park by any means. But, they provide a major sense of relief for those who are trying to get through this difficult part of recovery. With that said, what happens if you decide on quitting painkillers cold turkey?

Sudden and rapid acceleration of symptoms

Quitting painkillers cold turkey is notoriously hard, mostly because of how quickly withdrawal symptoms begin to set in. It only takes a few hours to one day after your last use for several symptoms to start developing. And once these symptoms start occurring, they intensify and multiply rapidly. Going from feeling little to no pain at all to being in physical distress and experiencing mental anguish is a big deal. The symptoms can easily start to feel like too much to bear, pushing a person right back to using just to get some relief. 

Feeling ill

The most common symptoms people experience when quitting painkillers cold turkey include:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Headaches
  • Body aches 
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms can make a person feel sick with a severe case of the flu or other serious viral infection. The chills and sweats that develop can be unpredictable, the vomiting and diarrhea can be relentless, and the general feeling of being really ill often feels overwhelming. Quitting painkillers cold turkey is going to cause a person to start feeling sick and fast, plus this feeling can last for days at a time. 


Bottom line: a person cannot go from being dependent on painkillers one day to being clean the next without experiencing complications. The withdrawal symptoms that set in are a reflection of the body attempting to function without the substance that was running the show. Part of that reset comes powerful, resilient cravings. Without professional support or pharmacological resources, ignoring these cravings can be extremely challenging. The cravings can continue long past the first few days after quitting painkillers cold turkey. With each craving comes risk for relapse. It is important to let the mind and the body undergo this reset without going back to the use of painkillers. The back and forth of using and then quitting painkillers cold turkey can increase serious physical and psychological harm. It can even be fatal in the sense of an overdose. 

Increasing odds of severe harm/death

Withdrawing from painkillers is not associated with severe harm or death, like benzodiazepine and alcohol withdrawal usually are. But, quitting painkillers cold turkey can leave a person with symptoms that completely and entirely threaten their wellbeing. For example, constant vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration and malnourishment. Vital organs can become damaged because of lack of retaining healthy food and water. This can quickly lead to more complex issues down the line (such as kidney failure). Also, many people who withdraw from painkillers (both under the care of professionals and cold turkey) suffering from suicidal ideations, thoughts, and behaviors. In the event a person is experiencing suicidal tendencies, they may go through with one or more attempts, which can leave them significantly injured or dead. 

Quitting painkillers cold turkey is not a recommended practice for these and many other reasons. If you want to stop abusing painkillers, reach out for professional help.

Drug Rehab in Arizona

Being hooked on painkillers can be like living a nightmare. Not only are you destroying your own life, but you are negatively impacting the lives of those around you. If you are ready to stop abusing painkillers, call us right now. We can help you overcome your struggles so that you can start living the life that you deserve.Do not wait any longer. The faster you pick up the phone and make that call for help, the brighter your future will be. So, take matters into your own hands and call us today.