Where does the phrase “Quit Cold Turkey” come from?

To “go cold turkey” or “quit cold turkey” implies to entirely stop doing something (or to try to, at least). Someone attempting to quit smoking cold turkey is the most common scenario you’ll hear. When you quit anything “cold turkey,” it implies you stop smoking, drinking, taking a hard drug, or eating a lovely chocolate cake all at once, rather than gradually weaning yourself off the addictive (perhaps chocolaty) habit.

How did the phrase coming about? One theory is that it evolved from the older idiom “talking turkey” (whose origin is also a mystery; it could refer to the trading of fowl between Native Americans and European colonists, or this often-repeated story of a hunting trip), and that it was sometimes referred to as “talking cold turkey” in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the expression “to talk frankly and plainly” already meant “to speak frankly and directly,” quitting something cold turkey would have implied abandoning something with a similar directness.

Another option is that it comes from cold turkey portions. Making a supper out of cold, remaining portions of the bird, as well as abruptly quitting something, requires very little preparation. Another theory is that the phrase originated from the parallels between a drug user in withdrawal and the corpse of a turkey. Both can be clammy, pallid, and covered in goosebumps, leading to the suggestion that a user who abruptly quit looked like a cold turkey.

If the drug you’re quitting is alcohol, a benzodiazepine, or an opiate, quitting suddenly and abruptly, or “cold turkey,” comes with a lot of risks. It’s also not a good idea if you’ve been taking a lot of drugs and/or for a long time, because the medications you’ve been taking could contain one of the high-risk medicines mentioned, or you could have severe withdrawal symptoms.

For a variety of reasons, quitting cold turkey is more enticing to many people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. When your regular pattern of usage is to use the drug unrestrainedly, it can be easier to forgo the substance totally than it is to use it moderately. Many people believe that if they totally distance themselves from the world of drug usage, avoiding all people, locations, and other reminders of the substance and beginning over, they will be able to do so more easily.

Because of the way the nervous system adjusts to certain high dependency medicines, quitting on your own can be dangerous. Taking these drugs out of your system too quickly might result in a range of dangerous and potentially fatal medical complications, such as seizures and heart difficulties.

So slow and steady is the way.

Check out my related post: How do you build a habit?

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