It is not treatment for the brain disease of addiction; it does not take away the cravings, it does not address the problems that lead to the addiction in the first place; and after a period of time, it becomes too difficult to fight the cravings and withdrawal while simultaneously trying to rebuild your life damaged by addiction. Only 5% of the patients who quit cold turkey are successful long term. The successful 5% can have vocal advocates of this approach that don't accept that it may not work for everyone.
In the early stages of the disease patients can often quit cold turkey, experience acute withdrawal for a few days and emerge relatively symptom free. But as the disease progresses less severe longer lasting withdrawal symptoms persist long after the acute withdrawal has ended. This post acute withdrawal wears down patients and is often the cause of repeated relapse. The patient remembers being able to stop in the past and assumes they have weakened willpower and make attempts to quit over and over. They don't realize their brains have been changing as the disease progresses. Reversing, to the extent possible, the brain adaptations responsible for these symptoms of withdrawal is the focus of long term addiction treatment. Cognitive tools can be developed to deal with the remaining brain adaptations that cannot be reversed. (see the Neurobiology of Addiction)
Important Life Saving Alert!!
Perhaps one of the most frightening things about quitting and then having to give into the cravings at a later date is the mistaken belief that you can use the same amount of opioids as before. As you go through withdrawal your tolerance is lowered, meaning less substance will cause the same effect as more did prior to withdrawal. This is often the cause of a fatal overdose. Family members are shocked and devastated; “He was doing so great! He hadn’t used in several months. He was happy, etc, and suddenly he was found dead of an overdose!”
To suppress the debilitating symptoms of cravings and withdrawal, enabling the patient to engage in therapy, counseling and support, so they can implement positive long-term changes in their lives which develops into the new healthy patterns of behavior necessary to achieve sustained addiction remission. - explain -