Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that is considered highly addictive. Consumption of cocaine leads to intense but short-lived feelings of euphoria, elation, hyperactivity, and increased energy. A cocaine comedown occurs when the drug’s positive effects subside and are replaced by negative effects, such as heightened fatigue, feelings of unhappiness, and irritability. A cocaine comedown is sometimes compared to an alcohol hangover, but they are inherently different because alcohol is a CNS depressant while cocaine is a stimulant.
At one point in history, cocaine was legal and prescribed by doctors. Today, though, cocaine is found illicitly on the black market. Much of the cocaine found in the United States is smuggled in from other countries and regions, namely South America. Cocaine found on the street typically appears as a white, powdery substance commonly ingested by snorting it through the nose, though it is sometimes injected, albeit rarely. Another form, crack cocaine, appears rock-like and is usually smoked. Because the high is so brief, cocaine is often consumed in a binge-like pattern.
In the U.S., the DEA has classified cocaine as a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This designation means that although it could possibly have some medical use, it carries a very high risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction. Indeed, it is considered to be one of the most popular drugs of abuse worldwide.
What Is a Cocaine Binge?
The body breaks cocaine down quickly. Depending on the user, the sought-after effects only endure for between 10 minutes to one hour. As such, binging cocaine allows the user to continuously enjoy the high it produces and delay the unpleasant symptoms that follow during a comedown.
If the repetitive uses of cocaine during a binge occur too frequently, the cocaine will build up in the body. This will eventually lead to tolerance and dependence and dramatically increase the risk of overdose.
Tolerance is a condition in which the body progressively diminishes the effects of a drug through repeated use. This forces the user to ingest ever-increasing doses of the drug to achieve the sought-after high. As stated, with an increase in the amount consumed comes an increased risk of overdose and other complications.
The Cocaine Comedown
After the binge is over, the user will inevitably have to suffer through a cocaine comedown. When cocaine is ingested, it causes a deluge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with feelings of reward, motivation, well-being, and pleasure. A cocaine comedown occurs once this influx of dopamine dies down, leading to physical and emotional changes like irritability and fatigue as the body restabilizes itself.
Unfortunately, the duration of these unpleasant comedown effects is often longer than the enjoyable high. Many first-time users may not be fully prepared for this period of suffering, so it sometimes dissuades them from future cocaine use. Still, others may dive headfirst into a binge, regrettably unaware of the miserable comedown that awaits them.
Symptoms of a cocaine comedown may include the following:
- Appetite changes
- Body aches
- Excessive sweating
- Extreme fatigue
- Intense drug cravings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Runny nose
The physical effects caused by a comedown may be very uncomfortable, yet it is often the psychological and emotional impact that places the heaviest burden on the user. Sometimes the anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other undesirable symptoms can be so upsetting that the individual feels that the only thing that can help them is more and more cocaine, or maybe even some other drug. Nevertheless, more cocaine only leads to a worse comedown when it inevitably occurs.
Cocaine Dependence and Withdrawal
If an individual repeatedly abuses cocaine over a protracted period of time, they will develop a cocaine dependence. A physical or chemical dependence is a neurological disorder where the consistent influx of neurotransmitters from the drug causes the brain and CNS to stop producing its own neurotransmitters.
Once this takes place, if the user attempts to quit “cold turkey” or cut back the amount they take, they will experience unpleasant, sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of a cocaine comedown, but they are not the same thing and should not be confused with one another. In the case of withdrawal, some level of dependence is required, while a first-time cocaine user will experience comedown effects—a dependent user will suffer both.
Cocaine withdrawal isn’t as physically dangerous as withdrawal from some substances, namely alcohol and benzodiazepines, but the psychological toll it takes can feel dreadful.
Withdrawal symptoms of cocaine dependence may include the following:
- Absent libido
- Deep depression
- Extreme anxiety
- Extreme fatigue
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Increased appetite
- Intense drug cravings
- Muscle aches
- Nerve pains
- Poor concentration
- Slowed thinking
- Suicidal thoughts and actions
- Vivid nightmares
It is highly recommended for anyone trying to quit using cocaine to enter into a medical detox to safely and comfortably return to normal.
The comedown effects are unpleasant, but dependence and withdrawal are typically the fire that powers a full-blown addiction. Cocaine addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that can destroy a person’s life and even kill them. If you or your loved one display some of the following warning signs, professional treatment may be the only way to return to a healthy life.
Warning signs of addiction may include the following:
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- A loss of interest in activities once found enjoyable
- Deceptive or secretive behaviors, such as lying or hiding
- Changes in friends or social groups
- Unexplained mood swings
- An increase in risky behaviors
- New or worsened financial and legal problems
Getting Treatment for Abuse and Addiction
An addiction to cocaine or other substances can be a lifelong, devastating battle that wreaks havoc on a person’s health. It can also damage the lives of that person’s family and friends, and some of this damage can be irreparable. Any individual struggling with addiction is strongly urged to seek out professional, long-term treatment to address their abuse, addiction, and any co-occurring conditions that contribute to them.
Just Believe Recovery is a specialized addiction treatment center that offers comprehensive treatment tailored to the needs of the individual. We have programs available in inpatient/residential, partial hospitalization, and outpatient formats.
In our programs, we employ evidence-based therapeutic services and activities, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group therapy, psychoeducation, art and music therapy, adventure therapy, relapse prevention, aftercare planning, and more.
If you or your loved one wishes to finally overcome addiction, please call us today to learn about our treatment options. Discover how we help those who need it most achieve long-lasting sobriety and wellness.