A drug addict is forced to make many difficult decisions when they ultimately decide to quit and take their first step on the long road to sobriety. There are bridges to build, bad habits to drop, friendships to make and break. But the first decision and the most important is whether to go cold turkey or to use a taper.
Cold turkey is when you quit straight away, from using your usual dose one day to nothing at all the next; a taper is when you gradually reduce the dose. There are pros and cons to both of these and that’s what we’re going to look at in this article, seeing which one provides the better option for all of the following:
Comfort and Severity of Withdrawals = Taper
Most opioid addictions will trigger acute withdrawals within 12 to 24 hours of your last dose. To begin with, you’ll feel a general malaise, like having a minor virus or the onset of the flu.
Between days 2 and 5, you’ll suffer the worst of these acute withdrawals, comparable to a really bad flu of bout of gastroenteritis. After that, protracted withdrawals will make you tired, lethargic, and give you a case of anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure.
This is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been through this but imagine being incredibly bored, with absolutely nothing to do but watch the clock. Now imagine feeling that every minute of every day, even when you can do all the usual things that make you happy.
A taper negates a lot of that. If done slowly, you will still feel uncomfortable and suffer from general malaise, but nowhere near as severe and you can go about your life as normal.
Many people can’t afford to take a week or two out of their life to suffer in this manner, so a taper is often the best solution.
The Road to Sobriety = Cold Turkey
While a taper can reduce the severity of your withdrawals, it can also prolong them. Depending on the type of taper you use and on the length of time you were addicted for, this process could take up to 3 months.
That’s a long time to prolong this process. A lot of things could happen in that time, all of which have the potential to force you into a relapse. What’s more, you’ll need to pay for your drugs throughout and if you’re getting them illegally you may also run the risk of acquiring tainted drugs.
All of this adds an element of risk that simply isn’t there when you undertake cold turkey and get it over with quickly.
Dealing with Life = Taper
One of the biggest reasons for relapse is an inability to cope with life. An addict’s life may be in disarray. If you’ve been addicted for a long time, your family life and your career may have suffered and your friends might be drug users. It’s very hard to quit that life from one day to the next.
If you taper, however, then you have time to gradually piece your life back together and to become the person you want to be. You’re not rushing from one state to the next, you’re taking your time. And in that time you can do everything from getting fit and rebuilding broken relationships, to focusing on a new career or a new educational path.
Cost and Risk = Cold Turkey
There is an element of risk associated with both a taper and cold turkey. On the one hand, a taper prolongs the amount of time that you take the drug, which increases the risk of using a bad batch, as discussed above. There is also a risk of a relapse overdose with both of these, although this is far more common following cold turkey, at which point the tolerance can plummet.
The cost, however, favors cold turkey. It doesn’t matter what opioid you use or where you get it from, if you’re in the United States then there’s a good chance you’re paying a lot for it. If you have a lot of money to spare, that might not be an issue. If your life, health and career are suffering because you’re spending money you can’t really afford to spend, then that additional cost should be avoided.
Summary: The Best Option?
We’ve seen a few different options, we’ve drawn a few different conclusions, so which is best?
Well, as you might have guessed, it all comes down to your preference and personal situation. If you’re older, have a preexisting health condition and have been addicted for a long time, then you should do everything you can to use a taper or some other medication means of withdrawal. The risks may simply be too high.
If not, and if you have the means to take a week or two out of your life, then cold turkey may be the best solution. The important thing to remember is that neither of these options is easy, both are uncomfortable, but the end goal makes all that toil worthwhile.
Take a look at a program like 90 Days Sober to help you if you’re in this position and are seeking an escape.