Although it’s commonly believed that cocaine is not physically addictive, it’s common knowledge in the medical community that there is a very real and serious physical and emotional backlash when an individual abruptly stops taking cocaine after a period of use and abuse. This experience is known as a “crash,” and it strikes almost immediately when a cocaine addict or abuser stops getting high. One of the most difficult withdrawal symptoms to deal with is cravings for more of the drug. There is additionally a range of physical withdrawal symptoms that develop, which is an indication that cocaine is indeed physically and psychologically addictive.
Since cocaine is highly addictive, anyone who uses it is vulnerable to developing an addiction. Cocaine only stays in your system for a short time – it only takes 90 minutes for half of the cocaine dose to be cleared from the body. Because cocaine’s presence in the system is so short, withdrawal symptoms can occur shortly after the last dose.
Factors Contributing to the Intensity of Cocaine Withdrawal
Some of the most important and influential factors that contribute to the intensity of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Length of use
- Purity of the cocaine
- Size of regular doses
- Common co-occurring disorders, including mental and/or other substance use disorders, such as:
- Abuse of alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, cannabis, and other substances
- PTSD, ADHD
- Eating disorders
- Depression or Anxiety
- Compulsive gambling
Cocaine produces extreme reactions, including a sense of elation caused by the increased levels of dopamine in the brain circuits that control pleasure and movement. Dopamine is a natural chemical messenger that the brain releases in response to potential rewards, like the taste of good food or an encouraging conversation. However, by flooding the brain with dopamine, cocaine prevents the natural recycling of dopamine in the brain, which causes the brain to depend on cocaine for the release of dopamine.
Emotional/Psychological Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Cravings are by far the most intense emotional withdrawal symptoms experienced by patients who stop taking cocaine. Even if they logically understand that they are no longer getting high off the drug due to long-term use or chronic binges, many report that they crave it all the same. Additionally, emotional withdrawal symptoms experienced during cocaine detox can include:
- Intense anxiety
- Agitation and irritability
- An inability to feel happiness
- A feeling of hopelessness
Physical Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Though the signs of cocaine detox are not as visible as withdrawal symptoms caused by heroin or other drugs, there are certain distinct issues faced by individuals who stop using cocaine.
These can include:
- Intense fatigue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarse or sore throat
- Rapid or increased heartbeat
- Diminished sense of smell
- Bloody nose or chronic runny nose
Additionally, if there are underlying physical health problems, they can be exacerbated both by cocaine abuse and its cessation. Low energy and a general achiness can make the emotional issues associated with cocaine detox even more difficult to overcome.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
Here is a general timeline of symptoms that are commonly experienced during cocaine withdrawal:
- First few hours after last dosage: Feelings of irritability, anxiety, exhaustion and an increased appetite. More cocaine is craved during this time.
- 5-7 days after last dosage: Increased intensity of cocaine cravings. The individual has difficulty sleeping and experiences vivid and unpleasant dreams when sleep does occur. Wild, depressive mood swings may also happen.
- 14-28 days after last dosage: More depression and stronger cravings. The individual may not be able to concentrate or keep a stable mood. He/she may be easily irritable or agitated.
- 35-70 days after last dosage: Body and mind start showing signs of recovery, and withdrawal symptoms subside. Cravings can still occur. Milder anxiety or uneasiness can reappear.
Approved Medications for Cocaine Detox
There are currently no medications which have been proven to ease the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal. As a result, a person experiencing cocaine withdrawal may try to self-medicate with depressants such as alcohol, sedatives or hypnotics. This form of self-medication is not recommended since combining addictive substances often produces adverse effects. Pharmacological self-medication is hazardous, and can further endanger a person’s health and safety.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms Concurrent With Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Even worse, those patients who must detox from both cocaine and alcohol simultaneously often find that not only must they struggle with the deeply emotional cocaine withdrawal symptoms caused by cocaine use, but also with the physical issues associated with alcohol abuse. This can make the experience of detox harrowing, and it is always recommended that patients undergo this process under the medical supervision of substance abuse treatment specialists. A study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases reports that certain medications may add in mitigating the discomfort associated with cocaine and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Cocaine Detox & Addiction Treatment
At Futures of Palm Beach, we provide the help and support needed to achieve success in overcoming cocaine addiction. We will gladly answer any concerns or questions that you have, and are available 24 hours a day. Please call us today to learn more about how our treatment programs work and how they can benefit you or a loved one.