You’ve likely heard the phrase “cold turkey” before. You may even have friends or family who’ve successfully quit smoking, vaping, or using another substance by going cold turkey.
If you’re hoping to stop smoking or vaping, quitting cold turkey may seem like a tempting option – how hard can it be to rely on your own willpower? However, it’s often not as easy as it looks.
What exactly is “cold turkey?”
Quitting something cold turkey means that you give it up a substance suddenly and on your own, rather than slowly reducing use or relying on backup help. For smoking, backup options could include using nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as patches, lozenges, or gum.
According to Healthline, the phrase “cold turkey” comes from the “goosebumps people sometimes get in the days after they quit, which look like the skin of a ‘cold turkey’ in the fridge.” Appetizing!
Can quitting smoking cold turkey be successful?
Health explains that quitting cold turkey is the most popular way to quit smoking, and one that many smokers try on their first attempt to quit. Unfortunately, “only about 3% to 10% are actually able to kick the habit without help.”
This could be due to a variety of reasons, but is likely because smokers (especially those who’ve never attempted to quit before) may underestimate how bad their withdrawal symptoms will be. If you’re going to attempt to quit smoking cold turkey, it’s important to learn about the potential side effects of withdrawal and how they’ll impact your day-to-day life.
Wondering how to quit smoking cold turkey? There’s no one best way to quit smoking cold turkey – you could choose to quit on a Monday, use it as a New Year’s resolution, or just stop on a random Thursday. If you’re trying to go cold turkey without tapering your use or having a backup plan (such as using a patch, gum, or other NRT), make sure to consider any significant events, issues, or extra stressors that may come up in the near future. The more difficulties in your life, the harder it will be to stick to your new, non-smoking lifestyle.
What are the side effects of quitting smoking cold turkey?
Healthline reports that some potential side effects of quitting smoking cold turkey include the physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as shaking, goosebumps, difficulty sleeping, and even nausea/vomiting. Psychological side effects such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and mood swings can also make the process more difficult. Additionally, when quitting anything cold turkey you’re likely to feel withdrawal, but the more you smoked before, the harder it will be (and it could potentially even be dangerous).
It’s also important to consider how the side effects of quitting smoking or vaping cold turkey could impact your short-term future plans. For example, going on a trip with friends might be a welcome distraction when trying to quit smoking cold turkey – but if those friends are smokers, it could intensify your withdrawals or cause you to fall off the wagon.
You may end up deciding only to spend time with non-smokers as you’re initially quitting smoking cold turkey, or you could choose an accountability buddy who’s also quitting smoking (whether by going cold turkey or other means). When deciding to quit cold turkey, consider any upcoming plans and the people involved, and how the side effects of quitting could impact (or be impacted by) them.
Finally, when quitting cold turkey, make sure to keep your tolerance in mind.
Suppose you do eventually give in to your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In that case, your previous tolerance will likely now be lower, making your more susceptible to the negative side effects your body may have been adjusted to before. Remember how you used to cough when you first started smoking? The adverse effects of smoking that your body may have gotten used to over time could come back.
How long does it take to quit smoking cold turkey?
A typical quitting smoking cold turkey timeline may look like this, per Medical News Today:
1. Days one through three: Peak withdrawal symptoms
2. Next three to four weeks: Withdrawal symptoms decrease
3. Beyond four weeks: Most of the nicotine has been expelled by the body, leaving only psychological withdrawal effects.
This may seem relatively easy – what’s one month in the grand scheme of things? – but the lingering psychological effects can make this process much more difficult, particularly if you’re under any other stress aside from quitting smoking.
If you’re working more than usual, prepping for an important event, or dealing with family issues, it may be harder to stop smoking cold turkey without having extra support such as an NRT – you’re removing a source of relief (that you’re addicted to) without having anything to replace it.
If you’re thinking about trying to stop smoking cold turkey, make sure to give yourself grace – and have a backup plan just in case.
Per the American Cancer Society (ACS), you’ll “have a better chance of success if you make a plan and prepare for nicotine withdrawal.” This could include planning to taper your use, or to supplement your tapering with gum, patches, or another NRT. ACS also reports that it may take “several serious attempts before a person who smokes can quit forever,” so don’t get discouraged if your first attempt (whether going cold turkey or otherwise) doesn’t last.
What if going cold turkey doesn’t work for me?
When trying to quit smoking or vaping, there’s no shame in needing help. That’s where LUCY products come in. Our nicotine replacement therapies include gum and lozenges in various flavors and strength levels. Consider having LUCY chew + park, a nicotine gum that’s made from only purified tobacco in your pocket or desk drawer for when intense cravings hit.
The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.