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lines of cocaine

Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine is a stimulant made through the chemical processing of a plant called the coca plant. This processing can produce a powdered form of the drug or a rock-like substance known as “crack” cocaine.

Whether a person is using powdered cocaine or crack, brain changes created by use of the drug can lead to addiction. If you or your loved one develops an addiction, you must go through detox (detoxification). This process must occur before beginning active cocaine addiction treatment.

During detox, you experience symptoms of cocaine withdrawal as the drug gradually leaves your system. Withdrawal from cocaine may produce no obvious physical symptoms. This does not mean that people going through cocaine detox don’t face serious challenges. Detoxification from cocaine can lead to serious and long-lasting psychological symptoms.

In some cases, these symptoms may pose a threat to safety and well-being. Around 50% of people detoxing from cocaine have serious mental health issues.2 Cocaine detox should always take place under the guidance of healthcare professionals for this reason.

Why Does Cocaine Withdrawal Occur?

During a cocaine addiction, the brain undergoes significant chemical changes in its pleasure center. Basically, these changes make the brain expect continued intake of the drug over time. When use of cocaine use comes to an end, or decreases rapidly, your brain reacts by sending unpleasant signals that are meant to encourage a return to active drug use. These signals are the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

There are several common cocaine withdrawal symptoms. The list of the most likely problems includes:

  • Lack of energy
  • An unusually restless or agitated mental state
  • A depressed mental state
  • A general sense of physical and/or mental unease
  • Graphic or realistic nightmares
  • An unusual increase in appetite
  • Reduced speed of body movement
  • Extremely strong cravings for more cocaine intake

People withdrawing from cocaine may also think about committing suicide. In individuals with a history of cocaine use in large amounts, strong cravings can linger long after other withdrawal symptoms have resolved. This same group of users may also experience lingering symptoms of depression. Some people addicted to cocaine experience the early stages of withdrawal as a notable “crash” that lasts for a period of hours or days. Others experience a more gradual progression of symptoms in early detox. A person who relapses while going through cocaine detox runs a high risk for the onset of a drug overdose.

Cocaine Detox Treatment

For certain types of drug withdrawal, doctors can rely on medications to ease some of the symptoms of the detox process. However, no such medications produce reliable benefits for people withdrawing from cocaine. This means that doctors focus their attention on making you or your loved one comfortable during withdrawal. They will monitor behavior to help ensure that a drug relapse does not occur. Since so many people addicted to cocaine have separate mental health issues, treatment during detox may also need to address these issues.

How Long Does Detox Last?

Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine typically resolve after about 7 to 10 days. This timeline may vary depending on specific factors that influence the overall length of the process. These factors include:

  • The amount of cocaine habitually consumed
  • The purity of the cocaine consumed
  • The severity of the addiction to the drug
  • The severity of the symptoms experienced during withdrawal.

Even though some people may successfully detox within a week, cravings for cocaine may reoccur for years.

Many people fear cocaine detox because they do not know what to expect from the withdrawal stages. The general timeline for detoxing from cocaine is similar for most patients, with exceptions including the factors listed above. A typical cocain detox timeline looks like this:

For the first 90 minutes to 3 hours. Cocaine exits the body quickly. Therefore a user will experience the initial “crash” about 90 minutes after they took their last dose. During this withdrawal phase the user may experience

  • Fatigue
  • Slowed activity
  • Discomfort
  • Possible depression.

From 3 hours to 7 days after last dose. This can be the most unpleasant period, where the physical symptoms climax, including:

  • Pain
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Nightmares
  • Cravings for cocaine tend to peak at this point, making it difficult to avoid relapse without support

Finally, 7 to 10 days after last dose. Symptoms usually diminish after seven days and are typically gone by 10 days. Bizarre dreams, depression, and the lack of desire may linger for a while. Physical symptoms should disappear.

What Happens Next?

Successful completion of cocaine detox sets the stage for active cocaine addiction treatment. There are no medications to help with the treatment process. Programs typically focus on behavioral approaches, including forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Other potential treatment options include long-term residency in a therapeutic community and enrollment in a 12-step mutual support group.

Detoxification at home is not often successful or safe, even with support from loved ones. Promises Treatment Center is a recovery facility that has mental health professionals that can safely guide you or your loved one through the detoxing stage. Contact us today and take the first step towards recovery.

Resources

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Cocaine Withdrawal https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000947.htm
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse: Cocaine https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine
  3. Australian Government – Department of Health: The Cocaine Withdrawal Syndrome http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-toc~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7-cws

Posted on September 22, 2016 and modified on April 25, 2019

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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