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Cold Turkey

November 13, 2013

Quitting drugs cold turkey may trigger neurological damage.



Drug withdrawal’s dangers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

3-D Structure of morphine. (Fuse809/Wikipedia)

It’s long been thought that drug addiction can lead to mental disorders, but a new study suggests that withdrawing from the drug cold turkey may instead be to blame. Georgetown University neuroscientists Italo Mochetti, Lee Campbell, and their team gave morphine to rats until they developed a dependence on the drug. Then they abruptly cut some of the rats off, triggering cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms. The rats also produced inflammatory proteins which damage brain cells. Campbell explains.

LEE CAMPBELL (Georgetown University):

What we found was that the abuse did not actually increase degeneration within the brain. However the withdrawal syndrome did.


The findings suggest that drug addicted patients should not be subjected to cold turkey withdrawal. The researchers add that in animal studies, gene therapy shows promise for blocking the neurological damage caused by withdrawal. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.