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The supposed advantage is that by not actively using supplemental methods, the person avoids thinking about the habit and its temptation, and avoids further feeding the chemical addiction. The supposed disadvantages related to the abuse of drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and heroin are unbearable drug withdrawal symptoms from the total absence, which may cause tremendous stress on the heart and blood vessels (and, in a worst case scenario, possible stroke or heart failure).
Sudden withdrawal from drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines and barbiturates can be extremely dangerous, leading to potentially fatal seizures. In long-term alcoholics, going cold turkey can cause life-threatening delirium tremens and thus is not an appropriate method for breaking an alcohol addiction.
In the case of dependence upon certain drugs, including opiates such as heroin, going cold turkey may be extremely unpleasant, but less dangerous. Life-threatening issues are unlikely without a pre-existing medical condition.
There are several explanations of the phrase's origin:
- A narrowing of the meaning "suddenly or without preparation," from cold turkey being a dish that requires little preparation; originally used for heroin addicts.
- From the American phrase talk turkey meaning "to speak bluntly with little preparation".
- Some believe the derivation is from the comparison of a cold turkey carcass and the state of a withdrawing addict — most notably, the cold sweats and goose bumps.
- Reference to the periods after Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays where cold (leftover) turkey was likely to be eaten, coinciding with the end of those holidays' characteristically high alcohol consumption. 
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