Just as with many other drugs that have addictive qualities, discontinuing cocaine use often results in cocaine withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances and agitation. Cocaine withdrawal is one of the major reasons people keep using this drug. For some, cocaine withdrawal symptoms can become so great, it’s easier to continue using than it is to try and stop.
To help people safely stop using cocaine, our rehab centers offer detoxification services, also known as detox. A majority of people who use cocaine fail to get clean when going at it alone, as the side effects of cocaine withdrawal and the temptation to seek out more drugs can be overpowering. 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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Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline & Symptoms
How long does cocaine withdrawal last? Just as there are many factors that impact a person’s substance habits and addictions, there are numerous factors that affect withdrawal.
In addition, there are some commonalities associated with cocaine abuse, cocaine addiction and cocaine withdrawal. Scientists have conducted many studies to paint a clear picture of this drug’s effect on the person using it, and the research has revealed some key identifying moments in the cocaine withdrawal timeline. A popular study treatment specialists reference — released in 1986 by Drs. Frank Gawin and Herbert Kleber — defines the withdrawal process of cocaine as a series of three phases, commonly referred to as the cocaine withdrawal timeline. Those phases of the cocaine withdrawal timeline are:
- Phase 1: The Crash (Week 1):
Those who use cocaine are likely to experience a crash after they halt their intake of the drug, whether it’s after one dose or an extended period of binging. The duration and intensity of the crash depends on factors such as how much was taken, the purity/quality of the substance, other substances that were taken concurrently, and how much food or water was in the person’s system. A cocaine crash period can last anywhere from one to 40 hours following the final dose, during which sleep man be difficult, if at all possible. Even with a successful period of sleep, general sleepiness and fatigue may last more than two days, or up to 50 hours following the last use, according to the study. Cravings for more of the drug decrease over the course of the crash, as the need for sleep builds and builds. However, the cravings return in the next phase of the cocaine withdrawal timeline.
- Phase 2: Cocaine Withdrawal (Week 1 — 4):
Those who use cocaine may experience one to five “near-normal” days on the other side of a crash, returning to regular sleep routines and minimal cravings. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms like lethargy, anxiety and cravings soon set in, paired with fond memories of their cocaine experience. People, places or things often trigger these cravings. As worded in the original report, based on observations of various men and women withdrawing from cocaine, “subjects then became preoccupied instead with the mechanics of finding cocaine, paying for it and hiding their cocaine use from concerned significant others. If they obtained cocaine, a binge would recur.” Side effects can come and go for up to 10 weeks, while the desire to use again grows and grows. For millions of people who are addicted to cocaine, this results in a vicious cycle of succumbing and repeating the first two phases repeatedly, until a proper intervention or tragic event interrupts the cycle.
- Phase 3: Extinction (Week 5 and On):
If and when someone who is addicted can make it through cocaine withdrawal without using, they can enter a period of less severe cravings and some other side effects that can last several months. The cravings can be intensified without warning due to certain social cues or emotional triggers. The only way to fully complete the cocaine withdrawal timeline, according to these researchers, is to “experience” and “master” the cravings in this extinction phase.
As a habit forms and a tolerance builds, so does the person’s dependence on the drug, both mentally and physically. Physical and psychological symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can appear under the radar at first. One of the most common cocaine withdrawal symptoms is a heavy “crash” following the cessation of heavy usage, or even minimal use in some cases.
- Symptoms of a cocaine crash include:
- A general feeling of depletion
- Dysphoria or depression
- Increased appetite
- Strong desire for sleep
- Diminished cravings
The time period after the crash is when someone who uses the drug regularly may feel the onset of withdrawal symptoms from cocaine. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include physical and psychological side effects. The cocaine withdrawal period can last as long as 10 weeks in more serious cases.
- Other symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may include:
- Strong cravings to use
- Irritability or anger
- Lethargy and extreme fatigue
- Insomnia and erratic sleep
- Poor concentration
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams
The psychological implications of addiction and severity of cocaine withdrawal symptoms can create a sense of desperation, which is exacerbated by the person’s individual circumstances and any co-occurring mental or emotional disorders. Psychiatric disorders can develop as a direct result of cocaine abuse, and cocaine can greatly exacerbate preexisting mental disorders. According to one study, those who use cocaine with a lifetime history of depression are up to five times more likely to report withdrawal symptoms of cocaine and have more severe cravings. Another study revealed that up to 22 percent of suicides may involve cocaine or cocaine withdrawal symptoms.
As the intensity and scope of cocaine withdrawal symptoms widen, someone addicted to cocaine may go to great lengths to remedy the problem. To cope with cocaine withdrawal symptoms usually means buying and using more of the drug. Many turn to illegal activities to obtain money or goods to exchange for cocaine. For many, the only way to end the cycle is with detox and treatment in rehab.
Remedies for Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Physical and psychological side effects can pile up one after the other, making it nearly impossible to focus on day-to-day life or have positive feelings as a whole. For too many people trapped in the web of cocaine withdrawal symptoms, using the drug again can feel like an inevitability, if only to soothe these burgeoning pains. Some turn to prescription pills or herbal remedies that promise to reverse the side effects or balance the brain’s dopamine levels.
- Some commonly used medication for cocaine withdrawal symptoms:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Desipramine (Noraprim)
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
There are many more over-the-counter aides and prescription drugs designed to calm stress, induce sleep, and balance brain chemicals. Many who are addicted to cocaine have tried combinations like these in an attempt to reduce the agony of withdrawal. But by taking matters into their own hands, they run the risk of worsening the problem. Prescription drugs in particular are no less dangerous than cocaine when used improperly.
Considering the side effects and daily temptation to use, though, it’s no surprise how so many men and women who use cocaine don’t make it through this arduous period. If you think someone you care about is abusing cocaine, help them realize that a supervised detox is the best possible way for them to survive cocaine withdrawal symptoms, avoid a relapse, and be successful in recovery.
Factors That Influence Withdrawal
Each person’s cocaine withdrawal symptoms and timeline hinge on certain individual factors, including: physical and mental health, environment (school, home life, etc.), peer pressure, traumatic events or stimuli, other substance use or duration of cocaine abuse.
The safest course of action for anyone working through the cocaine withdrawal process is to enlist the help of rehab specialists and participate in some form of supervised detox.
Quitting Cocaine Cold Turkey
There are varying opinions about whether cocaine use can and should be stopped “cold turkey” or all at once in the event of addiction. While some people who are addicted to cocaine may have success in quitting the drug flat out, research shows the severity of cocaine withdrawal symptoms can be magnified and become too much to bear. After periods of heavy use, an attempt to go cold turkey can send the person who’s addicted to the hospital in many cases due to extreme and violent reactions.