Detoxing from Cocaine: What Is Withdrawal Like?

Cocaine is a powerful and dangerous stimulant that derives from coca plant leaves. It changes brain communication by releasing dopamine. This flood of dopamine is associated with the euphoric high cocaine provides.

Cocaine is fairly common in the United States. In 2014, 1.5 million people over the age of 11 reported using it in the past year. But, in some states, cocaine use levels are as high as 1 in 10 adults.

Chronic cocaine use can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug. Understanding what it’s like to detox from cocaine is important for both you and your loved ones, so they know what to expect. While it can feel scary, it’s short-lived, and treatment can help reduce any discomfort you feel.

Why Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms Happen

Persistent cocaine use can lead to cocaine dependence. Dependence means you need to take more of the drug to achieve the high you’re used to. This can lead people to binge on cocaine. During a cocaine binge, people use as much of the drug as possible until running out. They may stay awake for several days.

Cocaine dependence can result in cocaine withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal happens once you stop using cocaine, but when the symptoms begin varies from person to person. You may experience them anywhere from a few hours to several days after last use. People often call this period “the crash,” and it can last up to one week. Other withdrawal symptoms may persist for several weeks or months.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

The common cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased cravings for cocaine, stimulants, or other mood-altering substances
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue and excess sleep
  • Increased appetite
  • Memory problems
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Paranoid thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Vivid/disturbing dreams
  • Dehydration
  • Slowed movements

The severity of symptoms depends on various factors, including:

  • How often and for how long you used cocaine
  • The presence of other mood-altering substances—like alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines—in your system
  • Any medical conditions
  • Your age
  • Previous histories of detox and withdrawal
  • Presence of medications

Is Medical Supervision Necessary for Cocaine Detox?

Cocaine withdrawal itself is rarely life-threatening, but detox can cause psychiatric and medical complications.

First, relapse is a common risk. Cocaine withdrawal often results in cravings. These cravings can be extremely intense, tempting even the most determined people. What’s worse, during this period of abstinence, your tolerance for cocaine decreases. As a result, if you go back to using cocaine, you’re more susceptible to a drug overdose. 

Additionally, co-occurring disorders are common: 7.7 million American adults have both a substance use disorder and mental illness. Cocaine withdrawal can trigger mental health symptoms related to depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, it can trigger suicidal ideation.

Medical supervision ensures a safe detox. Trained medical staff watch your symptoms to assess the type of care you need. If you experience complications, they can provide immediate medical support. Treatment specialists are also expert at providing psychological care. You’ll take part in group and one-on-one counseling.

After medical detox, they can help you transition into partial care or an outpatient program, so you can continue your recovery.

What Is Medically Supervised Detox Like?

You may arrive to medical detox under the influence or while you’re crashing. That’s okay. You’ll be supported and supervised until you feel better.

Once you do, you’ll speark with one of our admissions counselors for a full medical and psychiatric assessment. You’ll discuss your:

  • Medical history
  • Substance use
  • Other relevant issues

This information will help your team establish a treatment plan that’s right for you.

All detox programs are different. Usually, you’re assigned to a case manager and a therapist. These professionals offer support and guidance. They will also teach you coping tools to manage your cocaine withdrawal symptoms.

Many detox programs also offer clinical groups. Groups may focus on:

  • Relapse prevention
  • Stress management
  • Coping skills
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Emotional regulation
  • Spirituality
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Self-esteem

The length of detox varies. You may be in detox anywhere from 2 to 10 days, and when you’re ready to move on depends on both your physical and mental health.

Detox alone isn’t a complete treatment for cocaine use. Most people need long-term structured support. Your detox team will help you understand the type of treatment that will give you a life free from the burden of cocaine addiction.

Can Medicine Help with Cocaine Withdrawal?

Currently, the FDA has not approved any medications specifically for cocaine withdrawal. But some people do benefit from medications that help with other symptoms:

Antidepressants (SSRIs): SSRIs can help people struggling with depression or anxiety by releasing serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer.

Baclofen: Baclofen is a muscle relaxer that reduces the amount of released dopamine. It may help reduce cocaine cravings.

Modafinil: Modafinil increases glutamate-neurotransmission, which prevents the euphoria associated with cocaine.

Disulfiram: Disulfiram is typically used to treat alcohol dependence. When the user drinks alcohol on this medication, they experience a distressing reaction. Research shows this substance can also stop euphoria.

Sleep Medication: Rest is an important part of detox, but withdrawal can cause sleep problems, like nightmares or insomnia, for some people. Sleep medication can help with reducing the intensity of these symptoms.

Cocaine is a serious and life-threatening drug. If you’re struggling with your addiction, medical detox can help. We’re here to support and guide you on your journey towards recovery. Contact us today to learn more.

References

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2736/ShortReport-2736.html
  3. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/capitol-connector/2018/09/samhsa-releases-national-survey-on-drug-use-and-health/#:~:text=The%20report%20found%20that%201,a%20SUD%20and%20mental%20illness.
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/drug-dependence
  5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/comorbidity-substance-use-other-mental-disorders

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