Stopping cocaine can cause withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances and agitation. Cocaine withdrawal is one of the primary reasons people have trouble quitting the drug. People often report that cravings to use cocaine are strong during the detox process. Cravings can quickly hijack the recovery process, resulting in a relapse.
Many people who use cocaine are unable to stop when trying to do it alone. The side effects and cravings caused by withdrawal are more uncomfortable than many people realize. With physician-assisted detox and close supervision, patients can safely flush the drugs from their system and prepare their body and mind for the recovery process.
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What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant used by people around the world. People can become addicted quickly because of how it impacts brain cells (neurons).
Cocaine works by increasing dopamine, a chemical that passes messages between neurons. Dopamine typically helps to reinforce and signal when behavior is “good” or “helpful for survival.” Prolonged use of cocaine will lead to dependence, which is a state where the body needs the drug to function normally. If someone is dependent, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking cocaine.
Can You Quit Cocaine Cold Turkey?
Because of its short half-life, cocaine is one of the few drugs that can be quit “cold turkey,” but doing it alone may not be the safest option.
The half-life of cocaine is about 1.5 hours, so the entire dose leaves the body in 7.5 hours. Therefore, there is no taper strategy for cocaine, whether by using the drug itself or a replacement substance. Cocaine is metabolized from the body too quickly for a taper to be necessary.
Therefore, the only way to detox from cocaine is “cold turkey.” A person has the option to do this by themselves or with the help of a drug rehab facility.
Cocaine causes intense cravings during withdrawal, and this is one of the main barriers to long-term recovery for many people. A person detoxing alone will usually have more difficulty managing these cravings.
Medical detox provides support for cravings and other symptoms of withdrawal. Since a person will undergo detox in a treatment facility, they will not have access to cocaine, which enables them to focus on healing.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are most intense immediately after the last usage of the drug. After chronic use or a heavy binge, symptoms may start as soon as a few hours after the last dose.
Withdrawal symptoms will start after the initial symptoms of the crash. Withdrawal symptoms include both physical and psychological side effects.
Cocaine withdrawal typically lasts only a few days, but people who have used cocaine heavily may have symptoms for many weeks. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Symptoms of a Cocaine Crash:
- A general feeling of depletion
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Dysphoria, or extreme feelings of unhappiness
- Hypersomnia, or sleeping too much
- Increased appetite
- Common Symptoms of Withdrawal:
- Feelings of anger
- Insomnia and erratic sleep
- Strong cravings for cocaine
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams
Withdrawal Timeline & Factors
Different factors affect the timeline and severity of withdrawal symptoms. In general, most people follow a similar progression of events.
- Week 1:
During this time, a person experiences mood symptoms, cravings, irritability, trouble sleeping, and intense cravings. Relapse is common during this phase because of the intensity of symptoms.
- Weeks 1-10:
Symptoms intensity dampens at this time, but cravings continue. A person may still have trouble with concentration and mood.
- Week 10+:
Symptoms dissipate completely after 10 weeks, but a person may experience intermittent cravings based on external cues.
Each person’s cocaine withdrawal symptoms will be different. Exactly what types of symptoms and how severe they are depend on: environment (school, home, work and others), history of traumatic events, other substance use or duration of cocaine abuse, peer pressure, and physical and mental health.
The safest course of action for anyone working through the cocaine withdrawal process is to enlist the help of rehab specialists and participate in medical detox.
Remedies for Withdrawal Symptoms
The only guaranteed way to treat cocaine withdrawal is time. The body must readjust to normal levels of neurotransmitters and their matching receptors. The adjustment process is what causes the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, so it cannot be avoided.
To help weather withdrawal symptoms, a person should take steps to heal and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It may not sound glamorous, but the first steps of recovery are simply developing healthy habits.
- Some Remedies for Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Develop a regular sleep schedule and get at least eight hours of sleep each night
- Eat healthy food and do it on a regular schedule
- Exercise regularly, at least a few times per week
- Keep a regular schedule and wake up at a set time each day
- Start healthy habits like meditation, yoga and mindfulness
Our Detox Process
The recovery process is broken down into a few steps: medical detox, treatment and aftercare. Not everyone needs medical detox, but it may be a critical step in the treatment of moderate to severe cases of cocaine addiction. Those who are still using cocaine when they enter treatment will usually start with medical detox.
Detox is when the body metabolizes cocaine and removes it from the body. Since cocaine metabolizes quickly, it leaves the body in approximately 8 hours, based on the half-life of the drug.
People often detox from cocaine at home because it does not take long. They can fully detox in a day or two, with some symptoms lingering for the next few weeks. In contrast, medical detox is a supervised version of detox where a medical team oversees the process. Medical detox includes support to ease a person through withdrawal symptoms as well as medical support.
Typically, detox happens in a hospital or inpatient rehab center. People with life-threatening problems will detox in a hospital, while those who are medically stable will do so in a rehab facility.
During medical detox, a person will experience some or many of the withdrawal symptoms for cocaine. Cocaine detox is not long, but can be uncomfortable for some people.
Those in detox can expect medical, nutritional and addiction support. Treatment centers may take the opportunity to screen for and treat infectious diseases. Detox is also an opportunity for physicians to diagnose and treat chronic diseases, since it may be the first time someone with SUD is seeing a doctor in years.
In medical detox, diets are designed and administered by the treatment team. An individual will have more time to focus on their recovery and will be better equipped to maintain a healthy diet once they leave.
After medical detox is complete, patients will be screened for entry into substance use disorder treatment. Treatment plans may continue in an inpatient (in the facility) or outpatient (live at home and commute to the facility) manner. Those who are ready for continued care can be admitted into a program at this time.
If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine abuse, The Recovery Village can help. While detox at home is possible, it is not usually the safest option. Medical detox helps to ensure the process is safe and healthy. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs can help provide tools and life skills necessary for long-term recovery. Call The Recovery Village today to learn more about a continuum of care that can springboard a lifetime of healing.
Australian Government Department of Health. “The Cocaine Withdrawal Syndrome.” Australian Government Department of Health, April 2004. Accessed September 30, 2019.