Although cocaine withdrawal may not be as intense as withdrawal from some other drugs or alcohol, it does have its own unique set of challenges. Withdrawal from certain substances, such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates, can involve severe physical symptoms. Cocaine detox, however, manifests mostly psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slowed thinking
- Fatigue after activities or exercise
- Restlessness and tremors
- Chills, muscle aches, and nerve pain
- Inability to experience sexual arousal
- Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
- Depression or anxiety
- Suicidal ideations or actions
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams and nightmares
- Increased cravings for cocaine
- Increased appetite
When Is a Medical Detox Necessary?
While a cocaine detox may be conducted on an outpatient basis, medical detox is recommended in some cases. If an individual has experienced a relapse during any previous detox attempts, the 24-hour supervision provided by medical detox can be invaluable.
Also, if the person experiences any co-occurring mental health disorders, medical detox immediately followed by comprehensive addiction treatment can effectively address both withdrawal symptoms and mental health needs.
Among the more unsettling effects related to acute stimulant withdrawal is severe depression and an increased risk of suicide. People who try to discontinue cocaine use after addiction has developed can suffer from severe depression and mood swings, including suicidal ideations.
Through routine cocaine use, the brain becomes accustomed to the consistently increased dopamine activity associated with the drug. Over time, the brain’s reward center is disrupted and becomes less sensitive to dopamine. At this point, a person often requires increasing amounts of cocaine to feel its effect. Without it, they may feel extremely depressed and discontented with life.
If someone has a history of depression or suicidal thoughts, medical detox is generally encouraged to ensure that the person is safe and supported throughout the withdrawal process.
Acute cocaine withdrawal symptoms often resolve in about 7-10 days. However, as with many drugs, cravings for cocaine may continue for an extended period and could onset suddenly, even years after a person has achieved sobriety.
Cocaine has a relatively short half-life and, among those with significant dependence, withdrawal symptoms can manifest as soon as 90 minutes following the last use. The timeline for withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the person.
The following are some factors that may affect the timeline for cocaine withdrawal:
Duration of Use and Average Dose Used
Those who abuse cocaine for a short period may encounter withdrawal symptoms that are relatively short in duration. People who have used cocaine for years, on the other hand, may continue to suffer lingering withdrawal symptoms for weeks, in part due to a buildup of the drug in their bodies.
Also, people who’ve used excessive amounts of cocaine may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms than someone who has traditionally used lower doses.
Someone who has developed a dependence on two or more drugs may suffer from withdrawal symptoms related to both, possibly complicating the course of withdrawal and making the experience worse for the person in detox.
If cocaine was used as a method of escape from a stressful environment, stress might trigger the desire to use again. Moreover, environmental factors that cause stress – relationship issues, work troubles, or other factors – may result in intense cravings for cocaine, thereby interfering with the psychological process of withdrawal.
Co-occurring Medical or Mental Health Conditions
If a person experiences any co-occurring medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, or mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, the withdrawal process from cocaine could be more intense and complex.
Treatment for Cocaine Withdrawal
Unlike other substances such as opioids and alcohol, there is no prescription medication currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cocaine withdrawal. However, some medications may help people by reducing both acute and long-term symptoms of withdrawal.
For instance, pharmaceuticals used to treat depression and anxiety may be beneficial for those undergoing cocaine withdrawal, as they work well to stabilize moods and prevent worse outcomes. These could be particularly helpful for people whose withdrawal symptoms continue for longer than a week.
After detox, patients are urged to undergo intensive addiction treatment in either a partial hospitalization or outpatient program and take advantage of comprehensive, evidence-based treatments such as behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and psychoeducation.
Research has shown that programs that satisfy these conditions lead to better outcomes for those seeking to overcome addiction. Our center offers these programs, managed by mental and medical health professionals who specialize in addiction and provide care and support to all of our clients.
You can restore happiness, harmony, and wellness to your life, free of drugs and alcohol! Call us today and learn how we can help!
Related: What is Crack Cocaine?