Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
Withdrawal from coke addiction, also known as cocaine use disorder, can be an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience. People who find themselves asking, “Am I addicted to cocaine?” are understandably concerned about coming off coke. If you’re interested in cocaine withdrawal treatment, you probably want to know more about detox, the first step in comprehensive substance abuse rehabilitation. If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine addiction, you should know that you’re not alone.
Substance abuse and addiction, including cocaine use disorder, are major public health problems in Nevada and throughout the U.S.—problems that often remain unaddressed. Although there are no specific or current statistics on cocaine withdrawal treatment in the U.S. or Nevada, the most recent data provided by the 2017 Treatment Episode Data Set indicates that there were 13,827 substance abuse treatment admissions in Nevada, numbers that steadily rose from 2014 to 2016.1 This number is comparable to the most recent national data from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which indicates that 4.2 million American adults received substance use treatment in 2019.
However, this same report states that among the 21.6 million people aged 12 or older in 2019 who needed substance use treatment in the past year, only 2.6 million received treatment at a specialty facility during that time. 2 This indicates that many people with addictions do not receive the treatment they need to get well and live drug-free lives.
This article will help you understand all aspects of quitting cocaine, including how to go about cocaine detox, signs of cocaine withdrawal, and how to treat cocaine withdrawal. You’ll also learn about finding the best cocaine addiction withdrawal treatment to help you give up cocaine so you can take back control of your life and prevent the negative effects of addiction.
Coming Off Cocaine
Cocaine withdrawals are symptoms that typically occur when a person who is dependent on cocaine suddenly stops using it. Cocaine dependence can develop due to repeated exposure to cocaine. When you chronically use cocaine, your mind and body adapt to the presence of the substance and you are no longer able to function or feel normal without it—so you need to keep using it.
Cocaine dependence often leads to addiction, a serious and uncontrollable brain disease that leaves a person feeling powerless over the drug and causes continued substance abuse despite the negative consequences it has on a person’s life.3
The main reason cocaine is so addictive is because of its impact on the reward center of the brain. When a person uses cocaine, they experience euphoria within minutes. This occurs because their brain is flooded with dopamine, the brain’s primary reward chemical, which makes them feel high. When this high subsides, the person experiences a crash. The unpleasant feelings of a crash cause cravings for the drug, which fuels the cycle of cocaine abuse. The person needs to keep using to prevent withdrawal symptoms and maintain the pleasant and rewarding feelings associated with cocaine use.4
Repeated exposure to cocaine causes persistent changes in the brain that creates a “pleasure-reinforced compulsion to use the drug.” In fact, studies have found that “laboratory animals with unrestricted access to cocaine will self-administer until death.” This highlights how dangerously addictive cocaine can be; even when someone is faced with “family turmoil, job loss, incarceration, medical problems, and even death,” they will continue to seek out the drug. 4
Signs of Cocaine Withdrawal
What is cocaine withdrawal like? The severity and onset of withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. These symptoms are unpleasant and uncomfortable. Even determined and motivated people who say “I want to quit cocaine” find that withdrawal is usually much easier said than done—especially for those who think they can stop using on their own. This is because cocaine withdrawal can be associated with acute (meaning short-term) and post-acute (meaning longer-term) symptoms that can make it very difficult to give up the drug.
The short-term signs of cocaine withdrawal include:5
- Feeling exhausted.
- Muscle pain.
- Poor concentration.
- Poor attention.
- Bradycardia, or a heart rate slower than 60 beats per minute.
- Increased need for sleep.
- Increased appetite.
- Dysthymia, a form of depression.
- Vivid and upsetting dreams.
- Cravings, or a strong physical and/or psychological urge to use cocaine.
Cocaine withdrawal can be associated with severe depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.7 It’s crucial to receive adequate supervision and support from a professional detox throughout the withdrawal period; ongoing monitoring can keep you safe from self-harm. In addition, some people experience seizures or other medical complications from withdrawal, which also necessitates professional supervision.8
How Long Do Coke Withdrawals Last?
The answer to the question “How long does cocaine withdrawal last?” depends on the person. People generally begin to experience intense acute withdrawal symptoms within a few hours to a few days, with symptoms typically lasting between 3 and 5 days.5
The initial withdrawal period is usually followed by a period of ongoing yet typically decreasing withdrawal symptoms that can last from 1 to 10 weeks. Some people may continue to experience certain withdrawal symptoms, especially cravings and low mood, for up to 28 weeks.5
Other long-term symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:5
- Unstable emotions.
- Poor sleep.
Quitting Cocaine Cold Turkey
Quitting cocaine cold turkey is not usually advisable for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, people withdrawing from cocaine can suffer from depression, which may lead to suicide. In addition, people who are addicted to cocaine also often abuse other substances, such as alcohol, so they can experience a complicated withdrawal associated with those other substances as well.5 For these reasons alone it’s important to undergo supervised detox.
If you want to quit cocaine, you should discuss your situation with your physician or a treatment provider. You want the best advice for your unique circumstances to understand how you should undergo withdrawal. Your detox plan should take into account your individual physical and mental health needs.
Treating Cocaine Withdrawal
Cocaine withdrawal is usually treated with a combination of professional detox followed by participation in an addiction treatment program. Cocaine detox can take place in an inpatient setting, such as a hospital or residential program, where you live throughout the withdrawal period. It can also take place in an outpatient setting, such as a clinic, where you live at home but travel on a regular schedule to receive detox services. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, brief hospitalization or intensive outpatient care are the generally accepted settings for treating stimulant withdrawal.8
No medications are currently approved to treat cocaine withdrawal. However, researchers are examining certain medications to treat symptoms that may arise during detox as well as to prevent cocaine cravings. These medications include amantadine and mirtazapine. Adjunctive medications may also be provided to treat withdrawal symptoms; for example, diphenhydramine, trazodone, or hydroxyzine may help insomnia.8
Once you have successfully detoxed from cocaine, it’s important to continue your recovery in a professional treatment center to develop the skills you’ll need to remain drug-free and to receive support to help you understand why you developed an addiction in the first place. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that behavioral treatments for cocaine addiction are proven to be effective in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Some of the scientifically proven treatments you may receive can include:10
- Contingency management. This form of treatment involves providing motivational incentives for positive changes. For example, you may receive a voucher for a drug-free urine test, or you may earn points that can be exchanged for items like a gym membership or dinner at a restaurant.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This approach teaches you to develop relapse prevention skills and helps you change dysfunctional or unhelpful behaviors and thoughts that may have led to your cocaine abuse.
- Therapeutic communities. These are substance-free residences where you live with others in recovery. They typically require a 6- to 12-month stay, and you may receive a range of services, such as vocational rehabilitation, designed to help you transition back to your everyday life.
Recovery is a lifelong process that doesn’t end once you have completed treatment. It’s a commitment to take action. Putting in the work, believing in yourself and your ability to stay clean, and participating in aftercare (such as self-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous) to address the problems and concerns that could lead to relapse are all proactive tactics that can help you remain cocaine-free and live a happier and healthier life. In fact, research indicates that people who take all of these steps are more likely to abstain from drug use.10
Finding Cocaine Withdrawal Treatment
If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine addiction, then you should know that expert help is available to assist you with cocaine withdrawal and your ongoing recovery journey. American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of cocaine addiction rehab in Nevada and nationwide. We offer personalized treatment plans that are geared toward your specific needs, including addressing co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. Our compassionate, knowledgeable staff knows what you (or your loved one) are going through and are ready to help you get clean and stay sober.
When you’re ready to take the next step, please reach out by calling our free, confidential, 24/7 helpline. A Treatment Advisor can guide you through the entire process, answer your questions, and address any concerns you may have.
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