Cocaine is a potent stimulant that can induce feelings of euphoria and energy. Repeated use can also result in brain changes as well as dysfunction in the central nervous system (CNS). When an individual who is physically dependent on cocaine suddenly stops using, his or her body will go through a readjustment period before it can begin to function normally without the presence of cocaine in their system.
During this period, both physical and psycho-emotional side effects will occur, and they may range in intensity and type depending on each person’s unique factors. These include the user’s level of tolerance, metabolic rate, duration and severity of the addiction, and the existence of any comorbid mental health conditions or the abuse of other substances, such as opioids or alcohol.
Cocaine is both psychologically and chemically addictive. Because cocaine addiction can be challenging to surmount, those who are motivated to quit using are urged to undergo a supervised medical detox before participating in long-term therapy and counseling.
There are two main stages of withdrawal. The first is known as acute withdrawal, which refers to the most immediate and intense symptoms. Next comes post-acute withdrawal, which consists of long-term psychological symptoms that can persist for several weeks or months after use has been discontinued.
Common acute withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Intense dreams
- Impaired concentration
- Mood swings
Protracted withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- Agitation and anger
- Drug cravings
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of motivation
- Emotional outbursts
Duration of Withdrawal Symptoms
The duration of time required for withdrawal from cocaine will vary somewhat between individuals and is based on several factors. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can onset anywhere from 30 minutes to 72 hours following the last use. Physical symptoms of withdrawal often wane within a few days, but some may last longer.
Withdrawal effects that persist for more than three weeks are considered to be post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Psychological symptoms related to cocaine withdrawal, such as intense drug cravings and thoughts or dreams about using, often last for a prolonged period. There have been some instances of psychological symptoms persisting for six months or longer.
After the first week of cocaine withdrawal, the user may have recovered from the worst of the physical effects and feel as if he or she has already overcome the disease. For this reason, many individuals inadvertently let their guard down and, therefore, may become more susceptible to relapse during this time.
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
During the first 72 hours of the withdrawal process, users may encounter symptoms such as body aches and paranoia, and, less commonly, hallucinations. Anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, and drug cravings may also manifest during the first day. After this initial phase, any feelings of paranoia typically subside.
During the first several days of withdrawal, other symptoms are likely to occur, including extreme irritability and fatigue, sleep disturbances, and a general lack of motivation.
During the second week, drug cravings may intensify, and feelings of depression are common. At this time, the brain is still responding to the process of withdrawal and will likely not produce enough dopamine to promote strong positive emotions. Therefore, depression or anxiety may persist during this period.
During weeks 3-4, the body is still becoming accustomed to the absence of cocaine, and mood swings may be frequent. Although the physical cravings for cocaine usually subside by this time, cravings may persist throughout the first month along with feelings of depression and anxiety.
Medications for Cocaine Detox
Health and addiction professionals providers at rehab centers typically develop detox strategies based on the individual’s unique needs and goals. Unlike some other substances such as opioids, patients are usually placed on a tapering schedule for cocaine detox. Instead, they quit suddenly under direct medical supervision, and, in many instances, medications will be administered to help relieve uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Drugs that may be prescribed for cocaine withdrawal include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Clonidine – to treat high blood pressure and anxiety
- Gabapentin – to prevent seizures, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia.
- Propranolol – to mitigate anxiety
- Vistaril – to alleviate anxiety
- Trazodone – to improve sleep quality
- Seroquel – to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality
Getting Help for Cocaine Withdrawal and Addiction
Persons who are seeking to recover from cocaine addiction are urged to start by undergoing detox in a clinical environment. In doing so, the individual also has access to a solid support system to help with the difficulties of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. After detox, persons are encouraged to seek professional treatment for addiction, such as intensive, evidence-based therapies, group support, and counseling in an inpatient setting.
Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive treatment programs that address cocaine addiction as well as it’s underlying causes, including mental health disorders and trauma. Our dedicated staff delivers clinically-proven therapies that are highly beneficial for the treatment of addiction.
If you or someone you know is suffering from cocaine addiction or the abuse of other drugs or alcohol, please call us today! We are committed to helping those we treat achieve long-lasting sobriety and reclaim the healthy and happy lives they deserve!