What Causes Cocaine Withdrawal?
Using cocaine increases the amount of the “feel-good” chemical dopamine in the brain.
When someone uses cocaine for a long period of time, he or she develops a tolerance to the drug’s euphoric effects.
Eventually the cocaine user’s brain needs the drug to produce any dopamine or even to feel “normal.” As a result, withdrawal symptoms emerge when someone stops using cocaine.
Many addicted people continue abusing cocaine just to avoid these side effects.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Cocaine’s euphoric “rush” fades quickly, meaning withdrawal symptoms follow shortly after the last dose. Many cocaine users “binge,” or take more and more of the drug over a short amount of time, to delay withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine binging can lead to fatal overdose.
Common symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine include:
- Increased appetite
- Restless behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
Duration of Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms start within hours of stopping use. However, the worst cravings and withdrawal symptoms appear during the first month of quitting.
The intensity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the amount taken and the frequency of use.
Withdrawal symptoms can last for months after the last dose. Some symptoms can be uncomfortable, making cocaine a difficult drug to quit. Severe depression and suicidal thoughts are the most dangerous side effects of quitting cocaine “cold turkey.”
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
|First 1-3 hours||Symptoms emerge as soon as usage stops. Users start to feel irritable, anxious, exhausted and have an increased appetite. Cocaine cravings actually decrease during this period.|
|Week 1||Intense cocaine cravings arise. Users feel exhausted but have trouble falling asleep. Vivid, unpleasant dreams are common, as well as depressive mood swings.|
|Weeks 2-4||Depression and strong cocaine cravings continue. Recovering users might find it hard to concentrate or stay on an “even keel” emotionally. Irritability and agitation are also common.|
|Weeks 5-10||The mind and body begin to heal, and withdrawal symptoms diminish. Cocaine cravings can still crop up during this period. General anxiety and uneasiness sometimes return as well.|
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Cocaine Detox and Treatment
Supervised detox can provide a safe environment for cocaine addicts to get sober; however, all treatment programs require work and dedication.
“The biggest thing to remember is when you start treatment or when you’re trying to get sober, it’s uncomfortable — and that’s the point. You have to be uncomfortable, because you’re trying to change things. Once that uncomfortable feeling starts to become comfortable, that’ll be your new normal; sobriety will be your new normal.”
Quitting cocaine, however, may not require full-time medical attention. Outpatient detox is a less time-consuming, effective rehab option for many recovering cocaine users. Patients visit a hospital or treatment center 10-12 hours a week. On-site doctors and counselors perform physical and mental check-ups during addiction recovery.
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Cocaine Addiction Treatment
The most difficult withdrawal symptoms to overcoming cocaine addiction are anxiety, depression and cravings.
There are currently no approved medications to treat symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine. However, there are medications that can be prescribed to help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine. This is especially true for depression and anxiety. Community groups and psychotherapy are often effective in beating cocaine addiction.
Twelve-step groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA) surround recovering addicts with non-using peers and emotional support.
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Individual and group counseling can also equip users with coping skills to stay sober. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular counseling framework used to treat addicted people.
Cocaine addiction is difficult to overcome, but help is available. Contact us now to begin a cocaine detox or other forms of treatment.