Quite often, pilots who get cited for drug or alcohol use will realize that they need to stop using. However, because of their busy work schedules, and the demands that are constantly placed upon them, they feel as though they don't have the time to go to drug or alcohol treatment. As a result, they will attempt to stop using on their own, without any type of professional help or intervention.
This can have disastrous results for a number of different reasons.
First of all, stopping the use of drugs or alcohol abruptly can result in serious medical problems and complications. There are some substances that require a period of detox before they should be stopped, which can help to eliminate these complications drastically. Some examples would be alcohol and some types of prescription drugs. Anyone who attempts to stop using these substances cold turkey runs the risk of developing:
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Delirium Tremens (DTs), which can be fatal
- Grand Mal seizures
- Heart complications
- Liver and kidney complications
- A stroke
- A coma
Secondly, withdrawal symptoms can become very severe when drugs or alcohol are stopped, and even though a pilot may believe that he has it all under control, the chances are very good that he will experience severe withdrawal symptoms at some point. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, or even months, which is very dangerous for a pilot while he is working.
Usually, withdrawal symptoms are too much for anyone to bear, and so, they go back to using just to get some relief from them. The biggest issue with this is that instead of using smaller amounts of drugs or alcohol, quite often, people will go back to their usual dosages. What they don't realize is that during the time when they had stopped using, their tolerance levels actually dipped; and in many cases, they went down to the level where they were when they first started using. This can be very problematic, because it can lead to an overdose, which can be fatal.
Stopping the use of drugs or alcohol cold turkey is never recommended for anyone, pilots included. Even though it may seem like the easiest way to stop using, more often than not, it does more harm than good. It is rarely an effective way to quit, and most people return to using within a short time period. This can only fuel the cycle of addiction, and make it much harder to stop using the next time an attempt is made.