Definition American slang for acute opiate withdrawal syndrome, usually referring to heroin withdrawal.
Clinical findings Rhinorrhoea, lacrimation, perspiration, yawning, followed by restlessness, anxiety, irritability, dilated pupils, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, tremors, convulsions, shock; the reaction may be precipitated by naloxone, a pure opiate antagonist.
The first documented use of the term cold turkey, as above defined, was in 1925; JE Lighter, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Random House, 1994 records 2 further definitions for the term cold turkey, to wit,
(1) The most basic level, bedrock, first documented in 1927 and
(2) An easy target, a helpless victim, first documented in 1928; both uses of the term have been abandoned
MASS MEDIA A reality TV show (Cold Turkey) in which various ilk of addict is challenged to shed his or her bête noire–cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, etc. in front of a national audience.
Hats off to the TV executive who saw the commercial potential of watching others gain by losing; any health benefits are a serendipitous sidebar to the entertainment inherent in watching fatties struggle against the temptation to stuff their faces.